Rudolph the red-faced (and self-centered) reindeer

December 13, 2022
Man wearing a reindeer costume laughs during parade
For this year's MUSC Holiday Parade, Rudolph (not pictured) took his role very seriously. This clown in a reindeer costume, however, acted like a complete knucklehead. Photos by Sarah Pack

picture of writer along with description of the purpose of the column, to be entertaining 

Being the grand marshal of a holiday parade is a real honor.

The glamour. The prestige. The crowd chanting your name in unison. 




Chances are you just double-checked the byline on this column and said, “But wait, your name isn’t Lincoln.” And you’re right. I’m Bryce. Lincoln is the name of the kid who stole my spot at the front of the MUSC Angel Tree Parade of Toys last week. Not that I’m bitter or anything. 

Look, I’m no expert, but I’m pretty sure Santa asked Rudolph and his shiny red nose to lead his sleigh, not some spunky 6-year-old who’s just beaten cancer. Amirite? Seriously, sing the song in your head. I’ll wait. See? Not one word about oncology in there anywhere. So I’ll ask you, sane reader: Which makes more sense as the centerpiece of a holiday-themed hospital festival and parade? An adorable kid in a snowman hat surrounded by his loving family or a jaded 47-year-old balding man wearing an ill-fitting reindeer suit? 

Ok, you know what? Now that I see it in writing, it totally makes sense. The kid probably was the right choice. 

In my defense, however, I might have been a little misled by parade organizer and MUSC Health Volunteer Services coordinator Melissa Kubu, who called me earlier in the week. As proof, here’s a transcript of our phone conversation:


ME: “Hello?”

KUBU: “Hey, Bryce, it’s Melissa.”

ME: “Hey, Melissa!”

KUBU: “So, I’ve got a proposition for you: How would you like to dress as Rudolph and be in the holiday parade?”

ME: “Like, as the grand marshal?”

KUBU: “No. Like, just as Rudolph.”

ME: “Rudolph the grand marshal?”

KUBU: “Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer.”

ME: “I would be honored to be your grand marshal.”

KUBU: “You’re not listening.”

ME: “Thanks.”

KUBU: “Bryce, under no circumstances …” 



All right, I’m starting to see how maybe I’m not coming off as the greatest guy right now. Sure, I was disappointed not to be grand marshal, but that feeling went away the minute I met Lincoln Mullins, the 6-year-old who was going to be filling the role I had my sights set on.

Horizontal stack of two photos. On top the grand marshal and his family pose for a pic with the Grinch. Below, a man in a reindeer costumes walks alongside a float 
Above, Lincoln and his dad, Richie; mom, Tiffany; and brother, Bishop (wisely hiding from the Grinch). Below, the "rabid therapy dog" chooses its next victim.

Turns out, Lincoln is an awesome kid. He’s cute, smiley and goofy. Like most 6-year-old boys, he likes playing with trucks and Legos. He laughs a lot and gets in trouble for wrestling with his little brother. Unlike most other 6-year-old boys, earlier this year, Lincoln got sick. Like, really sick.

His mother Tiffany Mullins, R.N., who is an operating room nurse at Shawn Jenkins Children’s Hospital and has seen her share of sick kids, remembers the afternoon when Lincoln stopped playing with his friends, sat down on the front porch and just quietly watched. “My chest hurts, Mommy,” he told her.

A week later he was diagnosed with B-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia, and life for the Mullins family changed forever. 

“I thought I had perspective working at the children’s hospital, but when it affects you directly, it’s different,” Tiffany said. 

Playdates were replaced by clinic visits. Kindergarten became a class of one. It was a tough stretch for the entire family. Lincoln asked why other kids didn’t have cancer. Why he was different. His mother put on a brave face and said it was because he was special. And in a way, she was right. Because not every kid is lucky enough to have the story Lincoln has had since his diagnosis. Today, he’s in remission. His body is finally beating back the bad cells. Winning the ultimate wrestling match. Last week, he returned to in-person school for the first time in almost a year. Naturally, Lincoln was a little scared. So was his mom. 

“The relief I had when, after the first day back, he came running out saying how fun it was. I cannot tell you how good those words were to hear,” Tiffany said.

Over the past year, all of his visits to the hospital, coupled with his cheery attitude, have earned Lincoln quite the fan base at SJCH. And so, when the call for the position of grand marshal of the holiday parade went out, he was the obvious choice. Which is how I ended up, on an uncharacteristically warm day in December, walking alongside Springfield Elementary School’s most popular first grader. 

At his side were mom, Tiffany; dad, Richie; and 3-year-old brother, Bishop. Also on the float were several Disney princesses along with MUSC President David Cole, M.D., FACS, and his wife, Kathy. Though it was Lincoln who stole the show, the president was clearly impressed by my level of commitment, even singling me out to the head of Public Safety, saying, “That rabid therapy dog right there keeps stealing all the candy bars I’m trying to throw to the kids.”

As we made our way along Calhoun Street, flanked by the City of Charleston Police Pipe and Drum Unit and the Coastal Belle singers, I took a moment to appreciate the scene. The vibe was upbeat and joyful. Patients, care team members, even random people who just stopped to watch, waved and smiled as we passed, sharing in the holiday spirit, even if for just a few moments.  

And that’s when I realized Melissa Kubu knew exactly what she was doing all along. I thought she had shortchanged me, but as it turned out, she had given me the best job in the entire parade. 

Because for 60 minutes, I got to be Lincoln Mullins’ sidekick. And that’s as grand as it gets.

Series of three photos. One of Santa with a young man wearing sunglasses while sitting on his lap. Another is of the bagpipe marching band and the last is of the crowd watching the parade go by 
The 2022 MUSC Angel Tree Parade of Toys took to the streets of downtown Charleston for the first time since stupid COVID ruined everything good.