When a serious illness hits it hits hard, everything stalls, family life goes on hold. Routine is thrown in all directions. Calendars are no longer about days of the week and holidays, but rather they become consumed with appointments, treatment, surgery and long stays in hospital. Oftentimes seriously ill children must limit their interactions with general public by staying in an isolation ward.
It’s especially hard during the holidays, with everything going on outside, like holiday festivities and visits to Santa. During these times the tiniest of distractions can help.
Santa knows how important it is to fit everyone in, and he enlisted Cisco technology (and Cisco employees) to help. Through Cisco’s Telepresence and video collaboration technology children get one-on-one time over a live link chat with Santa in the North Pole, we call this Connected Santa. Children interact with Santa, they express their wishes, ask about Rudolf and the other reindeer, ask how the very busy Elves are getting on. It’s a real connection, a magical occasion, I mean, how does Santa know about their pets’ names or the funny stuff they got up to yesterday? There’s something about the reaction of wonder and amazement from the children as they look to their parents in awe asking “Mom, how did Santa know that?” Magic isn’t it!
Each year across 13 hospitals in Ireland and the UK around 350 children get to connect with Santa. An army of Cisco Elves get behind Santa & Mrs. Claus to help with the technology, organise toys, parties and getting Santa’s grotto ready. The Cisco Elves work from November all the way to December to volunteer with one goal in mind. That is to put a smile on the faces of these kids, their parents, and the staff at the hospitals.
This year was no different. The Cisco elves have made their rounds and helped Santa bring his jolly-ness to more children. They’ve helped in hospitals in Cardiff, Derby, Glasgow, Bristol and more. The kids have had their fun, and so have we. Here’s just a few of the things they asked for. (We want to protect their privacy, so only their initials are used.)
M. is three years old, and after having made a video singing “Let it Go” with her nurses, of course she wants anything having to do with Frozen. (That seems to be a popular request for Santa this year.)
Six-year-old N. wants a book. If Santa would also like to throw in a puppy, she’d be fine with that, too.
Three year old H. is a boy with a plan. He loves Minions. He wants all the Minions for his present.
E. didn’t tell us her age, but she did make sure to tell Santa that her 1-year old brother pulls her hair! She wants sparkly unicorns (who doesn’t?)
10-year-old J. told Santa to just surprise him.
I’ve been volunteering with the Connected Santa program for eight years now. It’s true to say that every volunteer has a heartfelt connection with the Connected Santa program. It’s a humbling experience and it sure puts everything in perspective. It makes us appreciate the holidays with our families even more, and just puts a feeling of hopefulness and cheer in our hearts that carries us onwards with jingle bells and a few sparkles on the side!