Santa Claus made an early visit to southwest Kansas on Wednesday, when he visited the Kansas Soldier's Home to deliver gifts as part of the 5th annual Hero Tree event.

Santa and members of Boot Hill Casino and Resort brought gifts to residents at the Kansas Soldier's Home based on a wish list from the residents on some of the things they need.

Then members of Boot Hill Casino take the lists and begin purchasing the items for the residents.

"We thoroughly enjoy this event every year," casino director of player development and promotions Tim Graves said. "It is the highlight of our year and the holiday season and we cannot thank the veterans enough for their service to this country.

"When we first started doing this, it felt at the time that we were adopting you but over time it is you who have adopted us and allowed us to be a part of your holiday spirit."

The Hero Tree event began several years ago when members of the casino began doing little things here and there with the residents at the Kansas Soldier's Home and the event continues to grow each year.

"On behalf of the soldier's home I cannot thank the casino enough," Kansas Soldier's Home director Dave Smith said. "The casino is our largest supporter and it is a privilege and a joy to have the relationship with them that we have.

"This gets bigger every year and it is a touching way to give back to our nation's heroes."

To contact the writer email vmarshall@dodgeglobe.com