Spending Christmas Eve in the hospital? Local Marines may come cheer you up

By Kristy Bleizeffer Dec 24, 2014

Marines delivered presents to Cassandra Bitzan, 5, at Wyoming Medical Center on Christmas Eve. Marines include

On behalf of Natrona County Toys for Tots, Casper area U.S. Marines delivered presents to Cassandra Bitzan, 5, at Wyoming Medical Center on Christmas Eve. Marines include, from left, Sgt. Ruben Arzate, GySgt. Clinton Rasmusson, Pvt. 1st Class Tye Busskohl, Pvt. Enrique Galindo, Pvt. 1st Class Steven Roberts, Pvt. 1st Class Wyatt Summers and Pvt. 1st Class Mitchell Kline.

Shane and Jessica Bitzan didn't want to schedule their daughter's procedure on Christmas Eve, but they also didn't want to put it off any longer. Cassandra has been suffering frequent infections which are getting worse. Doctors wanted to do an ultrasound and other tests, so her family loaded her up at 6 a.m. this morning and brought her to Wyoming Medical Center.

Unlucky to be spending Christmas Eve in the hospital. Lucky to get a visit from seven U.S. Marines bearing bags full of gifts.

Watch: Marines bearing presents visit Cassandra Bitzan, 5, in her Wyoming Medical Center patient bed on Christmas Eve.

"No one wants to be in the hospital over Christmas," said GySgt. Clinton Rasmusson, a Marine recruiter in Casper and a volunteer for Natrona County Toys for Tots. "We try to bring some kind of joy to these kids over Christmas while they are going through whatever they are going through."

Major Bill Hendricks of the U.S. Marine Corps Reserves started Toys for Tots in Los Angeles in 1947, giving away more than 5,000 toys. The Marine Core commandant was so impressed that he initiated it nationwide in 1948. Casper doesn't have a reserve unit here, so local Marines who are home from training or school step in to help deliver the toys to needy kids across the county, Rasmusson said.

This year's volunteers included Sgt. Ruben Arzate, Pvt. 1st Class Tye Busskohl, Pvt. Enrique Galindo, Pvt. 1st Class Steven Roberts, Pvt. 1st Class Wyatt Summers and Pvt. 1st Class Mitchell Kline.

Thankfully, just two children spent Christmas Eve on our pediatric ward this year -- redheaded Cassandra and 14-year-old Cary Palmer of Cy Middle School. Marines also dropped off extra presents in case any kids come into our emergency room over the next several days.

"This will take a bad memory of being in the hospital on Christmas Eve and turn it into a good memory," said Cassandra's mom, Jessica.

Cassandra Zent, the girl's grandmother and namesake, agreed: "When you think about how veterans have had to wait so long to get their own medical care and benefits, and all the things they've had to go through for our country, it's awesome for them to donate their time to care for these kids. They really truly have given so much to the United States, and this is like they are giving twice. We're very proud of our veterans. All of them."

We at Wyoming Medical Center couldn't agree more. Thank you to Natrona County Toys for Tots and to all the Marines that helped make Christmas in the hospital a little more bearable. Merry Christmas to you from the bottom of our hearts!

Marines delivering more presents

After gathering their bags of toys, the Marines make their way toward our pediatric unit. Toys for Tots volunteer Sherry Motsch, a Marine herself from 1987 to 1991, carries the two large stuffed animals. "I have kids of my own, and as a Marine, there are a lot of times Marines struggle to provide even for their own families. Anything that involves the Marine Corps where we can help out individuals in our community is a great thing to get behind," Motsch said.

Squeezed in the elevator

Elevator selfie! Marines with Toys for Tots Natrona County cram into the elevator on their way up to our fourth floor Pediatric Unit. "It makes you feel good," said GySgt. Clinton Rasmusson who also delivered to Wyoming Medical Center patients last year. "We are so used to going through stuff in our own lives -- when we deploy, combat, that kind of thing. This lets us give back and see a different side to things. We help people all over the world, now we are helping our own, so to speak."

Cary looks at presents

Cary Palmer, 14, looks at a gift while his mother, Teressa Palmer looks on. Cary had pain in his side for three days before telling anyone. Turns out, he had a ruptured appendix and has been in the hospital since Sunday.

Marines visit Cary

Marines surround the bed of Cary Palmer with his mother and brother, 9-year-old Brian Palmer, standing by. The Marines also brought gifts for Brian, who has been in and out of the hospital for visits.

Marines group shot

Marines and a Toys for Tots volunteer looking sharp in front of Wyoming Medical Center's Christmas tree. Thank you all for your service to your country and our smallest of patients!

Toys for Tots collects toys and money to buy toys for needy children all year long. To learn how to get involved, visit Natrona County’s Toys For Tots website.

Email Article

Send "Spending Christmas Eve in the hospital? Local Marines may come cheer you up" to a friend