Santa Claus steps away from assembling toys to comfort children during emergencies

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. - While the Christmas season may be a busy time for Santa Claus, he found time to be in Hampton Roads to help out local emergency dispatchers. His job is to comfort children who may be in emergency situations.

"And remind them, most importantly Christmas is still coming, Santa is thinking about you," Santa Claus told News 3. "There are people that want to take care of you, and make sure you have a good Christmas."

The annual program is called "Santa on the Air." For the last 15 years, he has worked with Hampton Roads police, fire and EMS crews.

"It's phenomenal to be able to help them cope and start using some skills to not lose the joy of the holiday season," John Bianco, the Virginia Beach EMS Division Chief, said.

Santa donned his red suit, portable radio and City of Virginia Beach-issued I.D. He was getting ready at the city’s EMS Headquarters with Bianco Friday morning.

"We have to remember the magic when we were children and what Santa means," Bianco explained, "what the spirit of the holiday season means."

When the program started in 2004, Santa said there were only three calls for him that year, but the program has grown since. It started when Santa said he saw a grandmother being treated by EMS.

“She had two grandchildren with her and both of them were completely scared," Santa said. "They only had grandma to cling onto. I knew there had to be a way I could help with this.”

Santa said the program is unique to Hampton Roads. He added no other emergency agency across the nation has such a program.

"I would love to see this program expand. For all of those who are outside of this area," Santa explained, "if you're interested in providing this kind of program for your community, please call us at the Virginia Beach Department of EMS and I would be glad to give you all of my secrets."

"Santa on the Air" officially started Friday morning just after 8:00 a.m. Santa will be in Hampton Roads until midday Christmas.

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