It's a tough time for Santa Claus to break away from the North Pole right now, so instead he took a virtual sleigh ride to Vermont.
"Hi! I'm so glad you have a chance to come up and visit me here at the North Pole!" Santa said via a computer screen.
It's a cyber-stop thanks to Cisco technology. Hospitalized children all across the country, including those at Fletcher Allen Health Care in Burlington, get to connect with the big guy and experience the magic of the season.
"I would imagine in Vermont there's probably deer hunting and maybe black bear," Santa said. "Those are two big things, and if you're lucky you might get a moose permit, but those are kind of hard to find, huh?"
Also hard to find-- a smile on a child who is sick. But a little holiday cheer can go a long way in the healing process. Experts say emotional health matters.
"This is the time of year that's magical for children. And they are wanting to see Santa and they're kind of stuck in their rooms, not able to get out. And just to be able to bring a smile to their face and let them be normal kinds in the hospital and not miss out on the opportunity other kids have this time of year," said Jennifer Dawson, a child life specialist at FAHC.
Harper, 8, knows exactly what he wants for Christmas.
"An Xbox 360!" he said.
His mom, Megan Campbell, is a nurse.
"I know what it was like to watch him in pain and not doing well yesterday. And to see a smile on his face while talking to Santa Claus was wonderful," she said. "I think that your mental state is everything. So, if you're sad and tired, everything is that much worse. And if you can be optimistic and happy and find things to enjoy in life, like Santa Claus, then you've won half the battle."
It's a priceless gift-- a healthy heart and a positive outlook-- for the holidays.
The virtual visits from Santa Claus are taking place at dozens of hospitals around the country. He chatted with children currently hospitalized at Fletcher Allen and also those visiting its outpatient clinic Thursday.
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