By Dawn Dorsey, Staff Writer
For Wayne Murray, the chance to light up children's faces by playing Santa Claus at MD Anderson's Proton Therapy Center is a way to give back, as well as one of the greatest gifts he receives every year.
A few days before Christmas two years ago, Murray completed successful treatment for prostate cancer at the Proton Therapy Center. During his visits there, he saw children waiting for treatment, and he wondered how he might help make their Christmas brighter. As he was preparing to be released, he asked a staff member if Santa ever visited the center.
"I just thought I'd make an offer," he says. "A few days later, I was playing Santa, and I've been doing it and loving it for three Christmases. It makes the kids so happy, and that's what it's all about."
A chance to give back
Murray, who owns a Houston real estate company, makes sure to schedule his annual check-up at the Proton Therapy Center for the week before Christmas. Then, from 6:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., he takes orders for gifts, gives lots of jolly chuckles and gently coaxes those who are a little shy.
The week before he arrives, the Proton Therapy Center child life specialist gives Murray a wish list of gifts for the children who will be there the day he visits. Members of his staff then work with employees of a local relocation company to buy gifts. They ensure there are enough gifts for every child at the center, including patients' siblings. It's grown into one of the company's most important annual events. "Giving is one of our top priorities," Murray says. "As a company, it's important to give back; you can't just take. And we have been so fortunate."
Smiles for the young -- and the young at heart
Each child receives a photo with Santa, present in hand. It's signed, "You've been good this year, and I'll see you on Christmas Eve."
Murray has been amazed by the response Santa gets from children of all ages.
"It really is kids from 1 to 92, like the song says," he says. "Just seeing Santa brings a smile to everyone's face, even older people. And that makes me feel really great."
Special thanks to Weichert Realtors, Wayne Murray Properties and Weichert Relocation Resources (WRRI) for donating the gifts presented by Murray to pediatric patients at the MD Anderson Proton Therapy Center.