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Santa left his sleigh in the North Pole this time, and instead hopped aboard a BCEHS air ambulance, courtesy of Helijet.
“Riding a reindeer all through the winter and on Christmas Eve that’s one thing, but having this thing as a reindeer,” said Santa, pointing to the air ambulance, “this Helijet, wow, what a bonus.”
This is the 19th year BCEHS and Helijet have partnered with hospitals to bring toys and warm wishes to kids across Vancouver Island and the Lower Mainland, many of whom may spend their holidays at the hospital. In addition to BC Children’s and BC Women’s, this year Santa made stops at Victoria General Hospital, Nanaimo Regional General Hospital, Surrey Memorial Hospital and Abbotsford Regional Hospital.
Santa was joined on his journey by a helpful elf, Helijet CEO Danny Sitnam and Infant Transport Team (ITT) Paramedic Brian Thornburn. ITT paramedics are the most highly trained paramedics in B.C.; they care for and transport babies, children and high-risk obstetric patients with acute and critical care needs.
“Today is very special. It’s the first time I’ve had the opportunity to participate in the Santa flight,” said Brian after the group landed at BC Children’s. “Considering I’m normally spending time with these children and families on their worst day, today we get to bring a bit of joy, a bit of happiness to them.”
Several children and families came out to the helipad to give Santa a warm welcome when he arrived.
Mary MacKillop, Director of Patient Experience at BC Children’s and BC Women’s, noted how important Santa’s visit is to children who may worry that Santa won’t be able to find them if they’re not at home for Christmas.
“All these children, many of whom are looking out the windows right now up on the care floors are going to have Santa come and visit them and this makes a big difference to reassure them that they’ve not been forgotten and Christmas will happen and Santa knows exactly where they are,” Mary said
“Santa will never forget these kids, it doesn’t matter where they are,” Santa added.
With that, Santa, Brian and the rest of the crew headed inside to give holiday greetings to patients and families inside the hospital. Santa handed out teddy bears to many patients who were very excited – and sometimes a little scared! – to meet him in person.
After wrapping things up at BC Children’s, the group headed back to the helicopter to continue their trip to other hospitals in the Lower Mainland.
As exciting as the day was for the kids, it was special for Santa too.
“It’s an honour,” he said, as he walked the halls of BC Children’s and reflected on his day meeting so many brave children and families who are finding holiday joy even while facing serious health challenges.