‘Santa Bill’ collecting toys to give Christmas to the patients at the Children’s Hospital of Illinois

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PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) — The pandemic did not deter “Santa Bill” from maintaining his 20-year tradition of bringing holiday joy to the young patients at the Children’s Home of Illinois.

Bill Turney, famously known as Santa Bill in the community, said this is the most wonderful time of the year for him.

“I get to be Santa Bill to go see these kids. It’s the most amazing thing I’ve ever got to do in my life, is to see these children,” Turney said.

Last year, Turney was unable to go to the children’s floors at the OSF Hospital, so instead he made a spectacle for the kids to see from their windows. He rode in on a Peoria firetruck and waved, while others held up signs.

 “And that was amazing, I don’t know how they’ll top that entrance,” he said. “That was very hard not going up to the floors and seeing the children because for me, that’s the best part.”

He said he hopes he can go to the hospital floors this year, but if not, he will do something similar to last year’s celebrations. He also said he will record a video of himself reading a Christmas book to play in the childrens’ rooms if he cannot do it in-person.

Santa Bill and his “helpers” are already collecting toys and monetary donations for this year’s holiday haul. Turney is calling on the community to give if they would like.

“Last year, we did about $20,000 worth of toys. And my goal is to fill a 25-foot moving truck from top to bottom with no more- no room in the truck at all. That, to me, if I fill that truck, I did what I had to do,” he said.

He said they are gearing up for the holidays early.

“I keep hearing rumors that there’s not going to be a lot of stuff on the shelves, you know, toys, food, anything. And so, that’s why we’re trying to get people to get out shopping now to get us items for these. But, all we can do is pray about it, that we’ll have everything we need. That’s all we can do. And it’s not in my hands, and every year we have everything that we need.”

Santa Bill has an Amazon wishlist that people can donate to. To get even more involved, follow the Santa’s Hospital Helpers Facebook Page.

The owner of Wendy’s Creative Collections & Coins is also hosting a raffle to raise funds for Santa Bill. Tickets are $5 or five for $20, and can be purchased at the shop, located at 3223 N. Prospect Rd. Items up for raffle include a smart TV, a signed Chicago Bears helmet, and much more.

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