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Hospitalized children get an early visit from Santa

Cass Herrington
Peoria Public Radio

Santa Claus came to town a few days early to visit hospitalized children Wednesday. 

Volunteer Bill Turney donned the red suit and distributed toys to sick kids.  Before he rode the elevator up to the patients’ floor, Turney was already in tears.

“It’s a happy thing, but it’s also a sad thing. Because these children are sick and they shouldn’t be sick in the first place. They’re just babies, but I know that kind of stuff happens," Turney said. "So, we’re here to make them smile for a little bit, forget about their problems and have a whole lot of fun.”

Turney has collected and distributed toys to sick children for 19 years, except for last year, when he had back surgery.  After surgery, he had to he had to forgo the white beard and instead visited patients while he was in a wheelchair.

Now, Turney is back on two feet doing what he says is his life’s work.    

“Everybody has something special in life they have to do," Turney said. "I guess this is my calling to put on this red suit and see these children and feel them feel like they’re not sick for a few minutes.”

An OSF St Francis Hospital spokesperson says Turney visits every patient room, taking about three hours. Then he moves on to UnityPoint Health Methodist’s patients with his truck full of donated gifts.