UPDATED: Dec. 16, 2015 2:24 p.m.

WASHINGTON — Dozens of Montgomery County officers, some dressed as elves, escorted Santa Claus to visit with some very special children at the National Institutes of Health.

“They’ll look up and think what’s going on here,” says Officer Robert Ladany. “And all of the sudden they see Santa and they’re like hey, this is an awesome day.”

It’s an annual tradition helping to raise awareness and bring presents to the sick kids spending their holidays at the Children’s Inn at NIH, a private, nonprofit, family-centered residence for pediatric outpatients.

Along the way, the group of officers elves will collect gifts and donations from businesses and organizations to bring to families at The Inn. In fiscal year 2015, more than 1,500 families came from all 50 states and 86 countries to stay at The Inn, which relies solely on private contributions to sustain its operations.

Lt. Dave McBain oversees the Santa’s Escort.

“They’re anything but police in there,” McBain says. “And we do face painting and we go shopping with them in a little mall in there.”

He says the event is helping the department heal one day after burying fallen officer Noah Leotta.

WNEW’s Chuck Carroll contributed to this report. Follow him and WNEW on Twitter.