A 6-year-old boy pedaled a toy car quickly through the hallways of Stormont Vail Hospital’s pediatrics unit Saturday as he waited to go home.
As he zoomed into the playroom, a group of men with their arms full of stuffed animals approached, and a nurse invited the boy to choose one. From his seat inside the car, he chose a large dog nearly as big as himself.
His 8-year-old sister was invited to choose an animal, too. She selected a bear from the arms of Nicholas Hines. As the men walked down the hallway, the kids’ giggles followed them.
Hines, of Silver Lake, is vice president of the Bearded Sinners Beard Club of Kansas, a chapter of the national organization that gained official status about four months ago. The chapter currently has six members, five of whom are officers, who meet monthly at Norsemen Brewing Co. in North Topeka.
The Bearded Sinners are brought together by their beards and by a shared desire to better their communities, Hines said.
“Lord knows we need that right now, with so much bad stuff happening,” he said.
The Kansas chapter held a pool tournament in Rossville and an auction in Emmett earlier this month and raised $700 to adopt families for Christmas. The Bearded Sinners adopted three families — two with four children and one adult and one with two adults and one child — in Topeka and Emmett and planned to deliver gifts and a meal to each of them later Saturday.
Hines said the club received so many toy donations for the families that they donated four bags of them to the Topeka Rescue Mission and arranged to bring the rest to children at Stormont Vail.
“It’s about caring for our communities and trying to — especially during the holiday season — make things better for other families,” Hines said.
The club’s members want to give back because they all have been at a point in their lives where they have been the ones who needed help, he added.
So on Saturday, they followed a nurse into several hospital rooms to share Christmas joy with kids and their families. Nathan Hodge, of Topeka, president of the Kansas chapter, donned a hospital gown and mask to take a stuffed moose to a 5-month-old child. A few minutes later, he cradled the baby in his arms as he spoke with the child’s parents about the Bearded Sinners club.
A young boy walked into the hallway from his room to choose an animal. A mask covered much of his face, but his eyes lit up as he reached for a bear and the men said, “Merry Christmas, buddy.”
For the Bearded Sinners, that reaction was at the heart of their purpose.
Contact reporter Samantha Foster at (785) 295-1186 or @samfoster_ks on Twitter.