Yesterday, Santa, BC Emergency Health Services (BCEHS) and Helijet marked the 15th anniversary of the “Santa Flights,” an event that brings the jolly old elf via air ambulance to visit children in BC hospitals.
“Each holiday season, we eagerly look forward to the Santa Flights and the happiness it brings to children who have been bravely fighting illnesses in hospitals,” said Adrian Dix, Minister of Health. “I’m delighted to celebrate 15 years of this merry tradition, and soon there will be smiles on little faces when BCEHS and Helijet bring Santa around.”
It was 2005 when Santa Claus first stepped aboard a passenger helicopter when he needed a special sleigh to fly toys to children in the pediatric ward of a Lower Mainland hospital.
Now the holiday season tradition sees Santa flying via air ambulance to visit children in five hospitals – Victoria General, Nanaimo Regional General, BC Children’s, Surrey Memorial and Royal Columbian in New Westminster – all in a single day.
When Santa and his entourage, including Helijet President and CEO Danny Sitnam and BC Ambulance Service paramedic Ray Sims arrived at each hospital with toys in tow, it was a welcome distraction for young patients and their families.
It is also an opportunity for specialty-trained, Infant Transport Team (ITT), paramedics to see children under happier, less stressful conditions. Sims was a member of the very first team when it was formed in 1976 to provide specialized paramedic care to the province’s youngest patients.
“It’s incredibly rewarding to see all of these young patients as their faces light up and they visit with Santa,” says Sims. “Infant Transport Team paramedics help care for and transport babies and young children with acute or traumatic emergency health needs to hospital, so reunions like this are extra special for all of us.”
“Helijet is proud to work every day with BC Emergency Health Services and its paramedics to provide 24/7 helicopter service for thousands of critically ill patients across the province,” says Sitnam. “Our sincere hope is that these visits bring a small measure of happiness to children who are spending the holidays away from home. Our dedicated staff at Helijet has helped fly Santa for the past 15 years and we’re delighted to do it.”
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