Santa Claus took some time out Thursday from preparing for the big day to surprise some young patients spending the holiday season in hospital – with extra help from BC Emergency Health Services (BCEHS) and Helijet.
Accompanied by one of his most trusted elves, St. Nick was joined by Helijet President and CEO Danny Sitnam and BCEHS Infant Transport Team paramedic Graem Luis to visit boys and girls in Surrey, New Westminster, Vancouver, Victoria and Nanaimo hospitals to deliver presents and spread Christmas cheer.
“We’re thrilled to once again assist Santa on his air ambulance toy run to visit children in hospitals this holiday season,” said Sitnam. “Throughout the year, our Helijet staff works closely with BCEHS paramedics to provide 24/7 helicopter service for hundreds of critically-ill patients across BC. Many of our patients are children, so all of us at Helijet are happy to help make this Christmas season special for these courageous kids and their families.”
For paramedics and flight crews, who often meet patients and their families during medical emergencies, the annual toy run is a special opportunity to interact with children and their families in a much happier environment.
“Being able to provide these families with a small reprieve from the realities of the medical challenges they’re facing is very meaningful to me,” said Luis. “Seeing the excitement on these children’s faces when they meet Santa is something I carry with me throughout the year.”
Santa’s day-long trek began with visits to Victoria General Hospital and Nanaimo Regional General Hospital in the morning, followed by afternoon trips to B.C. Children’s Hospital (the province’s largest hospital for children and adolescents), Royal Columbian Hospital in New Westminster, and Surrey Memorial Hospital.
The chance to meet Santa and receive an early Christmas gift was a welcome distraction for the young patients, many of whom won’t be able to be home for the holidays this year.