Santa used to spread gifts and good cheer in person to the kids at Dr. Everett Chalmers Regional Hospital in Fredericton.
Then came COVID-19 restrictions, and the big elf couldn’t get to the pediatric ward in the usual way.
That got firefighters at Base Gagetown working on another way to get Santa to the kids.
It helps to have a ladder truck.
“We put him in the bucket and we flew him outside,” said Jared Hartley, a fire rescue technician at the military base near Fredericton.
Hartley worked with hospital staff and his fellow firefighters to make Santa’s annual visit possible this week.
With the bucket raised to the third floor, Santa went from window to window, visiting each child without them having to leave their hospital rooms.
Inside, hospital elves delivered sterilized baskets of toys, gathered from the Oromocto food and toy drive, to each child.
“It was a very moving moment,” said Gilles Allain of the Chalmers Foundation. “There were quite a few tears shed.”
According to Allain, “one of the firefighters accompanying Santa said there were onions in the baskets when he was with Santa.”
News of Santa’s visit was kept under wraps because the hospital didn’t want to risk drawing a crowd. The high-flying elf even caught some hospital staff and physicians off guard when he appeared.
Tale brings goose bumps
For three years, Hartley has worked with the Oromocto Sobeys, his fire chief and the base commander to organize a food and toy drive. The toys are then delivered to kids who are in hospital over the holidays.
“We did what we could to at least get a smile on their faces,” said Hartley.
Despite all his work organizing the event, he couldn’t see the big man himself this time. He set out to drive to Fredericton from his home in Riverview along with his young son, but nasty weather in that part of the province forced them to turn around.
But the stories his friends have shared with him about the kids’ reactions have been more than enough.
“I’ve got goose bumps talking about it. I’m getting all choked up just talking about it,” said Hartley.
Everyone has their fingers crossed that Santa will be back inside the hospital for next year’s visit.