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Local News

Santa Claus Delights Children in Visit to Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital’s Pediatric Wing

Volunteers bring holiday cheer and gifts for the young patients, part of a decade-long Christmas tradition

As soon as the elevator doors opened Monday to the fourth floor at Santa Barbara Cottage Children's Hospital, 7-year-old Nathan Mendoza began waving excitedly.

Down the hall from his hospital room, Santa Claus had just stepped off the elevator and had two red Radio Flyer wagons full of gifts at his side to hand out to the good little boys and girls in the children's wing of the hospital.

"Hi Santa!" Mendoza called from just inside his room, where he was tethered to an IV drip that administered fluids and medicines.

Mendoza was in the hospital for his monthly chemotherapy visit, but got a little holiday cheer as Santa walked into the young boy's room, ho-ho-ho-ing and laughing with the excited youngster.

Climbing into Santa's lap, Mendoza watched as two elves and Mrs. Claus rummaged through the wagons for the perfect gift.

Tearing through the wrapping, a box of Legos was revealed. Mendoza was delighted.

Mendoza's mother, Naomi, stood nearby, watching her son open his gift and bask in Santa's attention.

"It means a lot to him," she said.

Nathan Mendoza gets a box of Legos during Santa's visit Monday. (Lara Cooper / Noozhawk photo)

Santa's appearance in the Cottage corridors is an annual tradition put on by the Santa Barbara Association of Health Underwriters. 

Christmas is just a couple of days away, and many families and children in the pediatric wing of the hospital are unable to experience the holiday from their home, so the group brings some holiday cheer right to their rooms, delighting the children, many of whom are facing serious medical diagnoses.

Santa, also known as Brent Anderson, as well as Mrs. Claus, Kim Novak, and several elves who handed out toys — all of whom work in financial and insurance planning with the association — were all part of the fun Monday as they roamed the hospital's halls. 

The group has been doing the Christmas visits for about a decade and every year "it touches me deeply," Anderson said.

"We look forward to this every year," Novak said, adding that seeing the smiles of the kids make it the "best part of the year."

Excited 14-month-old Jaden Munoz smiles after receiving a Doc McStuffins pillow book from Mrs. Claus. (Lara Cooper / Noozhawk photo)

A dozen or so children — from 4-month-old Luke to 17-year-old Maria — all got a hug from Santa and a toy or stuffed animal from the wagon.

Nurses and hospital staff also got to hug Santa and take photos with the group.  

One of the last children to receive a gift was 4-year-old Matthew Mayhew, who was in the pediatric intensive care unit of the hospital. 

Mayhew's eyes lit up as he saw Santa peer through the glass doors to his room, and was excited to open a gift — dinosaur gift set — from his bed.

"He definitely wasn't expecting this," said Mayhew's mother, Leanne. "We're not sure he's going to be able to go home before Christmas, so I know this means a lot to him."

Noozhawk staff writer Lara Cooper can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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