Thursday, December 23, 2010

Yes Virginia, There is a Santa Claus

And he volunteers with Fire and Rescue in Virginia Beach.

I damn near cried like a baby at work when I read this article in the Virginian-Pilot. It's just beautiful, and I don't normally get all mushy over things involving kids. These men just get it...the undeniable faith children have in Santa Claus and how he'll always come through for them when they really need it. The article needs to be cut and pasted here to read.

It's Santa - coming to the rescue in Virginia Beach!

Kathy Adams
The Virginian-Pilot
© December 22, 2010

It was a cold Christmas Eve two years ago when Dan Daugherty, a volunteer paramedic with the city, and his crew aided a woman who'd fallen ill in a Rosemont Forest home.

She was fine after some attention from the medics, but her two granddaughters, who were about 5 years old, were terrified.

That is, until Santa stepped in.

Soon a hearty "Ho! Ho, Ho!" came through the crackle of Daugherty's radio and Santa himself asked to speak with the girls. He reassured them the medics were there to help and reminded them to leave out some milk and cookies for his visit later that night.

By the end of the conversation, they were smiling again.

For the past six years, Santa has made himself available - through a direct radio connection to the North Pole - to speak with Virginia Beach children who experience an emergency in the days leading up to Christmas.
This year, he's on call starting today and continuing through Christmas Day.

The program, called Santa on the Air, is intended to lessen the impact of an emergency, such as a fire or illness, on a child, said Division Chief Bruce Nedelka, a spokesman for the Department of Emergency Medical Services. An EMS volunteer inspired by a Christmastime call started the project in 2004.

"He was disturbed that their Christmases from then on were always going to be tainted by the fact that this had happened," Nedelka said. So he recruited Santa to help.

Now all of the city's police officers, firefighters and medics know how to reach Saint Nick if they discover a child in distress. While Santa can't promise that everything will be OK, he reassures children that the responders will do all they can to help. He also guarantees he can still find them to deliver presents, even in the hospital, sorts out naughty-or-nice list concerns and entertains last-minute gift requests.

During an interview earlier this month, "Santa," taking a break from his Christmas preparations, said he fields about eight to 10 calls a year through the program. While on call, he keeps a cell phone and radio handy.

"Kids come to rely on Christmas as a kind of point in their lives when something special is going to happen, and when an emergency happens, all of a sudden everything about Christmas sort of gets swept by the side," he said. "It's hard for a child to understand that."

"We want you to know that somehow Christmas will still come to you," he said.

The calls from Santa make a big difference, said former EMS volunteer Robin Helfant, who used the program to help a little boy in the emergency room several years ago.

"He was very scared," she said. "It was just absolutely amazing how one little call on the radio can distract from fear and chaos and even pain."

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