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Farris makes 96th trip to St. Jude hospital

Photo by Barry Levine

Photo by Barry Levine

ALBANY -- Joe Farris, known affectionately as the "the real Santa", said Friday morning that even the nasty bout of weather would not deter him from delivering more than 2,000 gifts to patients at St. Jude

Children's Hospital in Memphis, Tenn.

Farris, who makes the 500-mile journey to the hospital twice a year, said the weather might slow him down a little, but just like the other jolly old elf, nothing can stop his giving.

This year, Farris will have an ample supply of gifts to give to patients thanks to Deerfield-Windsor School Lower Campus.

Each student brought a gift to be donated to a child at St. Jude Friday morning as part of their annual holiday program, which Farris attended.

"We've done it every year for 30 years," said Cary Stoudenmire, school administrator. "We encourage the students to purchase the gifts with money they have raised. This year more than 400 presents were donated by the children and their families."

Farris said he often marvels at the generosity of youth and the spirit with which they give as demonstrated by students of Deerfield - Windsor year after year.

"I don't know what I'd do without Deerfield-Windsor," he said. "They are always so generous and are one of my biggest boosters."

During the school's holiday program second-grade boys from the "Boys Spreading Joy" program announced that they had raised $518 from a bake sale for Farris to donate to St. Jude.

"I think they enjoy giving because it's doing a job in the community," said Farris of the students. "They are giving of their time and talent to another person selflessly."

Farris presented a plaque to the school in appreciation for their continued support in bringing smiles to the faces of many terminally ill children at St. Jude.

"I have seen so many miracles there," he said of St. Jude. "Every time I go up there I see the same children and families and every time I'm there they hug my neck and say 'thank you Santa.'"

Farris said in addition to presents he also tries to make a monetary donation to the hospital for research.

"When I first went there, all the doctors could do was give a patient a pint of blood so they could live a little longer," he said. "Now they have a 94 percent cure rate for leukemia."

Farris, along with a group of Coffee County High School FFA students and volunteers, embarked on their journey to Memphis in two vans laden with toys and will present the gifts tomorrow to the patients of St. Jude.

This is one of two trips Farris takes to St. Jude each year. Farris gives gifts to children around Christmas in December and also in July, which he calls "Christmas in July."

St. Jude Children's Research Hospital in Memphis, Tenn. assists 200 to 300 children every day on an outpatient basis about 50 children on an inpatient basis. Families never pay for treatment that isn't covered by insurance, and families without insurance are never asked to pay, Farris said.