Santa trades sleigh for helicopter to deliver toys to pediatric patients at Sanford Hospital

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Whether on a sleigh drawn by reindeer or a hospital’s helicopter, Santa is making Christmas bright for kids in the area — especially those at Sanford Hospital in Bismarck.

“The helicopter is just still not as fast as my sleigh,” North Pole Resident Santa Claus said.

Santa and his helpers with the organization Pilots for Kids delivered dozens of toys to the hospital’s pediatric unit Wednesday.

“Being in the hospital is no fun, and so if we can make their day a little bit better by bringing them something, and just getting a present to open will make their day better,” Claus said.

Emily Lang knows what being in the hospital during the holidays is like firsthand.

“My daughter Presley was born with a rare genetic disorder, so she spent a lot of time in the hospital. Recently, she passed away from RSV, and so I just wanted to do something to honor her name,” Lang said.

Now, Lang does what she can to help Pilots for Kids, a national organization made up of airline pilots who visit children in hospitals during the Christmas season.

“I knew how hard it was during the holidays to have a kid in the hospital because she spent seven holidays in the hospital so I just wanted to do something nice for other kids,” Lang said.

Steven Schaffner is a fixed wing pilot for Sanford AirMed in Dickinson and the Pilots for Kids Coordinator.

He says the group started deliveries with Santa in 2019, and it’s grown ever since.

“Every child ideally in the state will have a present this year if they’re hospitalized in the state of North Dakota, which is our goal,” Schaffner said.

Schaffner says they visited both Sanford and CHI St. Alexius, before heading to Grand Forks and Minot.

Santa is happy to be along for the ride.

“Merry Christmas boys and girls. Ho ho ho!” Claus said.

Pilots for Kids has been around since 1983, visiting children’s hospitals and bringing toys and other items to each child.

Copyright 2022 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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