For many children, visiting Santa Claus, sitting on his lap, and telling him what they want for Christmas is a highlight of the holiday season. But for a sick, hospitalized child, participating in this tradition can be impossible.

Thanks to Cisco technology and a network of Cisco volunteers, hundreds of hospitalized children in the U.K. and Ireland have a chance to visit with Santa each year – in the most high-tech way possible.

One of eight volunteer Santas in the 2012 Connected Santa program in the U.K. and Ireland

“Connected Santa” is one of the Corporate Social Responsibility programs Cisco supports to combine the power of human and technology networks to multiply impact.

Through the power of technology like Cisco TelePresence video conferencing solution, hospitalized children in the U.K. and Ireland can visit Santa Claus at the North Pole — or, more aptly, a studio decorated to look like the North Pole.

In the U.K. and Ireland, Connected Santa has grown from five hospitals in 2009 to 14 in 2012, when we expect Cisco employees there to distribute gifts to more than 400 hospitalized children.

It is no small task. About 150 Cisco U.K. and Ireland employees volunteered for the 2012 Connected Santa program, including 25 systems engineers, 14 Mrs. Clauses, 80 elves, and 8 Santa Clauses. Employees purchased 440 gifts to distribute to the children–including Lego sets, stuffed animals, racecars, dolls, tea sets, and art supplies– which is especially important for those children who are too sick to leave the ward to visit Santa.

Cisco volunteer elves pose with Santa at Guy’s and St. Thomas’ Hospital in London on December 6, 2012

Visits to hospitals in England, Wales, Scotland, Ireland, and Northern Ireland began on December 3 and will conclude on Wednesday, December 12. Each visit requires two systems engineers, one account manager to assist with the set-up of the technology, one Mrs. Claus, and four elves.

“Some of the kids aren’t going to be able to get home for Christmas, and to come here and see their eyes light up with a little present is a very worthwhile exercise to do,” said Cisco elf Elliot Hughes, who participated in a visit to Bristol Royal Hospital for Children on December 3.

Matt Day, a Cisco systems engineer, talks about his experiences volunteering with Connected Santa

Santa himself is situated in a studio at Cisco’s Bedfont Lakes campus in England. He converses with the children in high-definition video via Cisco TelePresence technology.

Cisco elves at the hospital talk to each child to learn their name, age, and what they would like for Christmas. They feed the information back to Santa and his “Santa sitter” helpers via Cisco WebEx technology so they can personalize each visit. For kids too sick to leave their hospital beds, Santa can visit their rooms via a mobile video cart.

Presents wait to be shipped from the Cisco Bedfont Lakes headquarters

Each year, Cisco U.K. and Ireland employees receive heartfelt thanks from the young patients, their parents, and staff at the hospitals as Connected Santa brightens up the holiday season.

Cisco TelePresence technology is available at many hospitals across the U.K. and Ireland and is used throughout the year to help improve the speed and quality of patient diagnoses. It is ideal for bringing together patients and specialists regardless of their geographic location and helping improve access to quality patient care.

In the United States, about 30 hospitals will receive virtual visits from Santa between December 4 and 21. Read more about Connected Santa in the U.S.

The Connected Santa program is a perfect example of how Cisco uses its products and expertise to connect the unconnected and make a positive impact on people and communities.

Connect with Connected Santa

  • Follow Connected Santa’s virtual sleigh ride on Twitter with hashtag #connectedsanta
  • Follow @CiscoCSR and @CiscoUKI on Twitter
  • Like CiscoCSR and CiscoUKI on Facebook
  • View photos of Connected Santa UK on Flickr

Thanks to these Cisco Connected Santa partners in the UK and Ireland:

  • Department store John Lewis, which provides a system for Cisco employees to buy and track gifts
  • UCS, which ships gift from Cisco’s Bedfont Lakes headquarters to the hospitals free of charge
  • The Print Consultancy


Alexis Raymond

Senior Manager

Chief Sustainability Office