Rappelling first responders spread Christmas cheer at Orlando children’s hospital

Annual Elf Rappel is a treat for children’s hospital patients

ORLANDO, Fla. – All hands were on the roof AdventHealth for Children on Tuesday as Santa and his elves suited up and dropped off the Walt Disney Pavilion.

Teams from the Orlando Fire Department, Orange County Fire Rescue and the Orlando Police Department joined forces for the sixth annual Elf Rappel.

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“This is my first year out here and it’s exciting to see just how many people come out and how involved everybody is from the fire departments, the hospital organization, just how receptive everybody is to make sure these kids have a great holiday week,” said OCFR Battalion Chief Richard Broccolo.

The elves rappelled down the side of the building to wave to children spending this season in the hospital.

“We’ve got the high angle team rappelling, you know stopping in individual rooms, talking with the kids, it’s just a different environment for the kids and for us as professionals,” said Orlando Fire Department District Chief Ed Angelotti.

It wasn’t just current patients who enjoyed the Christmas magic. Tatum Atherton was a patient at AdventHealth and was treated for an atrial septal defect, a nickel-sized hole between the top two chambers of his heart.

Doctors at AdventHealth for Children performed a minimally invasive, life-saving surgery to make his heart good as new.

“He’s done so good after his surgery,” said Tatum’s mom, Joyce Atherton. “I mean he’s put on weight. He’s doing good in school, I mean we couldn’t have asked for a better doctor, better nurses, and stuff as AdventHealth.”

Atherton said they didn’t think Tatum would make it to this point. She said it’s great they can come to celebrate Christmas with the doctors and nurses who took care of Tatum.

“We’re just so excited, you know, that Tatum can be here and that we can celebrate with everybody and tell everybody that we’re happy,” Atherton said.

First responders at Tuesday’s event said they wished every day at work could be spent like this — spreading a little joy to everyone.

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About the Author:

Emily joined WKMG-TV in November 2022.