Young patients at the Stollery Children’s Hospital got a special visit Tuesday morning.
With less than two weeks before Christmas, Santa found time in his busy schedule to make a special drop-off for kids at the Edmonton hospital.
A Royal Canadian Air Force CH-146 Griffon helicopter flew to the Stollery Children’s Hospital on Tuesday as part of Operation HOHOHO — a longstanding tradition at the Stollery.
Annon Cleary, a Stollery parent to Brooklyn, said the festivities were much needed.
“It was so great to see after being stuck in a hospital for almost nine weeks. It was so amazing and it was such a special, special opportunity for Brooklyn to see,” she said.
Jenny Plume, team lead for the child life department at the Stollery, said the event — designed to bring holiday cheer to the hospital’s patients and their families — is always a big hit.
“Thanks to the RCAF…they flew up to the North Pole and got our friend Santa and flew him on their helicopter over downtown Edmonton and right over the hospital,” Plume said.
About 80-100 kids received a present from Santa this year. Stollery patients watched Santa’s tour via Zoom — as he landed on the hospital helipad and was greeted by staff.
“He passed over his great gifts he had brought for the children and we continued on the way,” Plume said.
Santa wasn’t able to go inside. Instead, 408 helicopter squadron delivered presents earlier to allow for a quarantine period to keep patients safe.
Plume said the moment uplifted everyone’s spirits, including the staff.
“We’ve been getting really tired and with heavy hearts some times. This was just as therapeutic for us as it was for everybody else,” she said.
“It’s so hard this time of the year,” Cleary said. “The Stollery really does make it special for these kids and heartwarming for the parents.”
The event dates back to 2005 and originates from 400 Tactical Helicopter Squadron, one of 1 Wing’s seven squadrons across Canada. 408 Tactical Helicopter Squadron has conducted their own iteration since 2018.