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Santa delivers early holiday to sick kids in Burlington - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Santa delivers early holiday to sick kids in Burlington

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BURLINGTON, Vt. -

Santa's got a brand new sleigh. He caught a lift to Fletcher Allen Health Care in Burlington in a Border Patrol helicopter to give the reindeer time to rest up.

"The sleigh is a much smoother ride, much quieter," Santa said.

Once inside the hospital, Santa got right to work doing what he does best: giving out presents and putting smiles on faces.

"I hope it means a lot to them," Santa said. "I hope it means as much to them as it does to me to be here for them and it's just nice to see these kids smile because a lot of them are going through a really tough time."

Santa's helpers were glad to be able to give him the lift.

"Just seeing the kids, it brings a smile to my face and it also hits me right there in the heart, too," said Michael Johnson of U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

Customs and border protection started the holiday tradition six years ago when one of his pilot's kids was fighting leukemia at Fletcher Allen.

"The hospital had done so much for him and his family that he wanted to give back to the hospital," Johnson said.

To help kids like 6-year-old Alec Coughlin celebrate the holidays.

"Well, there are two things about Christmas I like. One-- the presents-- and doing the decorations on the Christmas tree," Alec explained.

Alec says his tree is already decorated and now he's got a gift card from Santa to put some presents under it, picking the plastic after being overwhelmed by the amount of toys to choose from.

"Well, it was a hard decision," he said with a laugh.

But he knows what he hoping for Christmas day.

"A bow and arrow," Alec said.

He'll have to wait and see.

For many of these kids, their Christmas lists contain those items you can't buy at a store or bring in a sled; what they really want this holiday season is hope and health.

It wasn't just the kids getting presents who were excited about Santa's visit. The nurses and staff at the hospital say today is their favorite day of the year, proof positive this season is for kids of all ages.

UPDATE:

Some good news to share with you: Six-year-old Alec Coughlin, who got a gift card from Santa Thursday, got an even better gift later that day. His family tells us that Alec, who has been battling cancer, got a clean bill of health from his doctors Thursday. He is now cancer-free.

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