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Deerfield spreads Christmas cheer to St. Jude

A group of second-graders from Deerfield-Windsor School recite a poem on St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital at an annual holiday program at the school on Thursday. The students at the school contributed 350 Christmas gifts this year for children at the Memphis, Tenn. hospital.

A group of second-graders from Deerfield-Windsor School recite a poem on St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital at an annual holiday program at the school on Thursday. The students at the school contributed 350 Christmas gifts this year for children at the Memphis, Tenn. hospital.

ALBANY, Ga. -- Santa Joe is now making his 102nd trip up to St. Jude Children's Research Hospital in Memphis, Tenn., with the most recent holiday donations to come out of Deerfield-Windsor School.

Deerfield's lower campus on Beattie Road conducted the school's 33rd annual holiday event on Thursday, which has traditionally supported the hospital through either gift or monetary donations.

There to accept the gifts was Joe Farris, otherwise known as "the real Santa Claus." Farris makes the journey to the southwestern corner of Tennessee twice a year -- a trip he has been making since 1962.

"If I had to two places I'd like to be it's at St. Jude's, and I love you so much that you would have to be No. 2," Farris said at Deerfield during the gift presentation. "Thank you so much for working so hard.

"When I hit 100 (visits), I thought that was a milestone."

The hospital, founded by the late entertainer Danny Thomas, focuses on advancing cures and means of prevention for life-threatening childhood diseases through research and treatment, regardless of the patient's race, religion or a family's ability to pay.

"I've seen so many miracles at St. Jude's that I hope to write a book on the miracles I've seen," Farris said.

In all, there were 350 unwrapped gifts donated by students to go to the St. Jude patients, as well as roughly $6,000 overall in monetary contributions raised to be given to the hospital.

In addition, there were "love offerings" given as a token of appreciation to Deerfield's custodial and cafeteria staff during the program.

While Deerfield aims to excel at teaching children the academic skills needed to be successful, there also is some attention paid to teaching the school's students the concept of kindness and compassion -- whether it be for St. Jude, Toys for Tots or through a bake sale to help raise funds for a child's medical bills, officials say.

"We teach so much more than (academics), and today is a perfect example," Dave Davies, headmaster of Deerfield, said on Thursday.

A news release provided to The Albany Herald by Farris said that he and a group of "helpers" were to depart for Memphis on Thursday and would distribute the gifts while entertaining the young patients with a party this morning at the hospital.