VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. – On call for 76 hours straight. That is how one Virginia Beach Emergency Medical Services volunteer has been spending his Christmas for the last 13 years.
A 24/7 job, for three days, he compares it to prepping for Christmas morning. Except this time, Santa is preparing for the worst.
“I am here because around this time of year, we have emergency calls that happen, and some of those calls involve children,” said the volunteer, decked out in a Santa suit. (He asked to remain anonymous, so we’ll refer to him as Santa.)
Since 2003, Santa, in full character, talks over an EMS radio to children in the Tidewater area who find themselves in a traumatic situation near or on Christmas Day.
He calls it “Santa on the Air”, and he got the idea after responding to an EMS call years ago around Christmas time. Two kids were witnesses to the scene.
“They were maybe seven or eight years old, and these poor kids just had nothing to hang on to because their grandmother was in trouble,” said Santa. “It just dawned on me that there needed to be somebody who they could trust, who they could talk to.”
Santa on the Air grew over time, and today, Santa responds to calls from Virginia Beach, Norfolk, Chesapeake, Virginia State Police and Hampton Roads Navy Regional Fire.
For three days, Santa gets a special phone and his own radio line called North Pole One. To get ahold of him, all a provider has to do is give him a call.
“Feel free to give me a call on the phone or direct on the radio,” said Santa. “We will help make Christmas a little better for these kids.”
He expects to get about 30 calls over the three-day period.
When Santa does get to chat with a child, he says the kids get pretty into it. He gets all kinds of questions: “’How come you left reindeer food all over the floor last year, when do the reindeer get to visit the family dog or cat, where do you live, what do you like to eat?’,” and the list goes on.
But the question he gets asked the most? “'How do you make the reindeer fly?’ Obviously, that is the biggest secret of all, and that one I will never tell,” said Santa, with a grin.
“I had a little girl one time ask me if Mrs. Claus could get on the radio, so I went and got her and she talked to her for awhile.
Santa credits a lot of the program’s success to his wife. “I could not do all of this without her.”