SPRING HILL — Twenty-two Spring Hill Elementary School students trooped into Spring Hill Regional Hospital to brighten the day of patients and staffers.
The members of the after-school Panther Pride Chorus had come to sing carols and ring bells.
Their repertoire included old favorites O Come, All Ye Faithful, Deck the Halls, Jingle Bells, Silent Night and We Wish You a Merry Christmas. Many of the singers accompanied themselves with specifically toned bells. Music teacher Melody Raddish and fifth-grade teacher Richard Inmon directed them.
Community service teacher Karen Charlton and Spring Hill principal Marvin Gordon were also at the hospital. The students visited, Gordon said, "to return the support Spring Hill Regional gives our school and to teach them the importance of giving back to the community."
Spring Hill Regional Hospital is a Partner in Education to the school. "They're so good to us, this hospital," Charlton said. The hospital did a teddy bear clinic at the school last year to help children become comfortable with medical workers, and loaned the school a big grill for use on Career Day.
The hospital departments collected food to distribute to Spring Hill Elementary families for Thanksgiving, and they have "adopted" families from the school to help for Christmas.
"We all went shopping," hospital associate administrator Scott Hartsell said. "It was wonderful."
Hartsell met the children, teachers and parent chaperons when they arrived. He took them through the hospital as they sang to staff members and patients, who ranged from elderly to a newborn. "These were her first Christmas carols ever," Hartsell said about the 1-day-old baby girl.
The children not only sang but gave patients more than 400 cards that they had made. "We worked on them for three weeks," Charlton said.
Hartsell noted that some of the visiting children were actually born at this hospital, "so they're alumni."
After singing, the children were treated to hot chocolate and cookies in the hospital lobby. There, some of them commented on why they thought they were there.
"To cheer people up," said fourth-grader Brieanna Miller, 9.
"Because it was fun," said fifth-grader Alexandra Kennedy, 10, "and people that are sick, they kind of get some joy in them and if they don't get to go home for Christmas, this will probably help them."
Fifth-grader Danielle Pacifico, 10, was enthusiastic about the visit. "This was the best field trip ever," she said, "because we got to sing for patients who were sick, because they're in the hospital and they might not see their family for Christmas."
Fifth-grader Brianna Neumann, 11, said her favorite part of the trip was "singing for the people that were sick, because they can't go home for Christmas. We came over to make them joyful. It was sad, too, 'cause a lot of them were really sick."
As they readied to return to school, the hospital staff offered them bears, visors or mesh bags as gifts. Music teacher Melody Raddish was touched by the gesture. "We came to give, and we receive," she said.
Before they left, parent Lynn Smith, whose daughter Jessica is a fourth-grade chorus member, commented on what she observed that morning as they moved through the hospital.
"The halls lit up with smiles," she said.