Virtual Santa brings the holidays to sick children

Thu Dec 23, 2010 6:14am EST
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By Ros Krasny

BOSTON (Reuters Life!) - For children in hospital over Christmas, a visit from Santa Claus -- especially a cool, virtual Santa beamed in from the North Pole -- is like a breath of fresh air.

Children's Hospital Boston Wednesday played host to what has become an annual event: a video meeting between the season's most popular personality and some of the city's sickest children.

"You kids have been on my 'nice' list for a long time," the jovial Santa told Kaylee Sullivan, 7, who was joined by her brother Liam and friend Anna for the video chat.

As many as 75 children spoke with Santa, first in the hospital's play area and later in the oncology ward, for those too frail to leave their rooms.

"To have a brief talk with Santa is a magical moment for the kids," said Patrick Regan, enterprise account manager for healthcare at Cisco Systems, which provides the video technology, and the Santa, for the event.

Children are connected to Santa's workshop -- in this case, San Jose, California -- via a high-definition video link, and talk to Santa directly.

Dozens of hospitals in the United States and Canada are on the waiting list to host the events, Regan said.

Making "small memories," especially around the holidays, is important for sick children and their families, said Kirsten Getchell, a child life specialist at the hospital.   Continued...

<p>Eight year-old Lily Diangelis speaks with a virtual Santa at Children's Hospital Boston in Boston, Massachusetts December 22, 2010. REUTERS/Brian Snyder</p>