GUATEMALA CITY – Santa Claus paid a visit – by helicopter, not by reindeer-drawn sleigh – to Guatemala’s second-largest hospital on Wednesday bringing gifts, joy and hope to more than 170 children being treated there.
This is the 34th occasion on which the Niño de Praga group has sponsored the activity, using private donations, bringing some 500 toys and throwing a Christmas party at the San Juan de Dios Hospital and several orphanages in the Guatemalan capital.
Starting early Wednesday morning, the children, all of whom were under 14, crowded around the hospital’s heliport awaiting Santa’s arrival by chopper.
Upon disembarking from the aircraft, Cristian Ochaita – playing the part of Santa for the first time – was surrounded by the kids clamoring for his attention and a hug, ultimately being approached by wheelchair-bound Steven, age 9, who gave him a letter containing his Christmas wish: “Better safety for Guatemalans.”
Steven has been in a wheelchair since Dec. 15, 2016, when he was hit in the face by a stray bullet as he was buying candy at a store near his house in Zone 18, the most dangerous district in Guatemala City.
Nurse Rosa Sazo, who has worked at the hospital for 21 years, said that Santa’s arrival each year makes the children “healthier and happier.”
Santa also visited the burn unit, where several children are being treated, but reporters and cameramen were not allowed inside due to the delicate condition of the kids there.
After Santa had made the rounds, a team of his elves distributed presents – dolls, trucks, stuffed animals, candy and balloons – to the smiling and excited kids.