Marines bring joy to young patients

BEN HEATHER
Last updated 05:00 26/12/2012
Abby Gray and Gunner Sergeant 'Gunny' Boylan
ROSS GIBLIN/Fairfax NZ
QUICK CUDDLE: US Marines from the American Embassy handed out toys in the children's ward at Wellington Hospital yesterday. Abby Gray, 3, makes friends with Gunner Sergeant 'Gunny' Boylan.

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The United States Marine Corp invaded Wellington Hospital on Christmas Eve, armed with toys for sick children.

More than 65 Christmas toys were handed out by Marines at the children's ward at Wellington Hospital, from plastic air carriers to teddy bears.

Most children seemed a little bemused by the group of uniformed Americans - complete with white gloves and shiny buttons - handing out presents.

Three-year-old Abbey Gray barely uttered a word before eventually mustering the courage to hug one of the Marines and attempt to hand back her present - a large brown teddy bear.

Abbey has been in hospital for 12 days after contracting a lung infection. She, her mother and step-father will spend Christmas in hospital.

"But Christmas is Christmas, wherever you are," said her mother, Rachel Pearson.

The Marines are stationed at the American Embassy in Wellington. The free presents are part of the Toy for Tots programme, a well-known Marine-run programme in the United States.

Gunnery Sergeant "Gunny" Boylan said the programme was about making sure kids in need got something for Christmas.

In his previous post in Algeria, Marines had handed out gifts linked to Ramadan celebrations, he said.

"It's about getting to these kids and making sure they have something to celebrate."

Toys given to the Wellington children were donated by the public, mostly by people connected to the embassy.

The Marines' last names were not able to be published for security reasons.

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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