Schmitt-Matzen’s 6-foot tall frame is adorned with a perfect snow-white beard and ice-blue eyes. He is the embodiment of Santa, in a commercial-worthy, award-winning way, and for many children, he is Santa himself.
In fact, for the last six years, Eric Schmitt-Matzen has dressed as Santa to bring holiday spirit and joy into the hearts of children. A few days ago, he continued his life mission and filled the heart of a terminally ill 5-year-old boy with happiness.
As he was leaving his day job as an engineer, a nurse at a local hospital called Schmitt-Matzen with a special request for an emergency visit. “She said there was a very sick 5-year-old boy who wanted to see Santa Claus,” Schmitt-Matzen told the Knoxville News-Sentinel. “I told her, ‘OK, just let me change into my outfit.’” She said, ‘There isn’t time for that. Your Santa suspenders are good enough. Come right now.’”
When he arrived at the hospital, the boy’s mother handed “Santa” a PAW Patrol toy as Schmitt-Matzen prepared to bring the dying boy Christmas.
As he got ready to enter the ICU room, he told the family, “If you think you’re going to lose it, please leave the room. If I see you crying, I’ll break down and can’t do my job.”
Everyone remained outside of the room to watch Santa deliver Christmas.
Alone with the boy, Schmitt-Matzen put on his best jolly voice and sat down. “Say, what’s this I hear about you’re gonna miss Christmas?” Schmitt-Matzen says as he recounts the story to the Knoxville News-Sentinel, “There’s no way you can miss Christmas! Why, you’re my Number One elf!”
“He looked up and said, ‘I am?’”
“I said, ‘Sure!’”
The boy then found the courage to ask Santa without any preamble, “They say I’m gonna die. How can I tell when I get to where I’m going?”
To answer the little boy’s question Schmitt-Matzen gave him a task. He told him,“When you get there, you tell ’em you’re Santa’s Number One elf, and I know they’ll let you in.”
With a smile, Schmitt-Matzen leaned over and wrapped the little boy in a warm hug where he died in his arms.
— Melissa Ponzio (@MelissaPonzio1) December 12, 2016
The experience was emotionally straining for Schmitt-Matzen who almost didn’t continue as Santa this holiday season.
However, he was persuaded to put on the costume one more time, he tells the Knoxville News Sentinel. “When I saw all those children laughing, it brought me back into the fold. It made me realize the role I have to play. For them and for me.”