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Santa Brings Christmas Cheer to Pediatric Clinic in Monroe

On Tuesday morning, Mr. and Mrs. Claus, and their elf paid a special visit to little ones in the pediatric clinic at University Health Conway.
 (Alanna Quillen, KTVE/KARD)
(Alanna Quillen, KTVE/KARD)
 (Alanna Quillen, KTVE/KARD)
(Alanna Quillen, KTVE/KARD)
MONROE -- On Tuesday morning, Mr. and Mrs. Claus, and their elf paid a special visit to little ones in the pediatric clinic at University Health Conway.

"They may be here for flu symptoms, maybe they have a cough," said Stephanie Rivers, Business Development Director, who said parents and children visiting the hospital were in shock to see Santa himself.

Three hospital staff dressed up as Santa's crew. Dozens of children, many who were at the hospital for doctor's appointments, lined up to see them.

"It was a surprise that he was here, so we just took pictures and it was amazing," said Monroe resident Roxanna. "It's extremely important...It brings joy to the kids."

Children sat in Santa's lap, telling him what's on their wish list.

"One of the other children was very scared, but once she sat in Santa's lap, she didn't want to leave...She kept coming back," said Fran Kitchens, who dressed up as Mrs. Claus and works as an LPN in Oncology.

"It's really a joy to have the chance to leave the north pole during the busy season and come down and bring some Christmas magic to some of the children that are not feeling well at this time of the year, really brings joy to my heart," said Santa, AKA Mike Brister, the outpatient clinic manager.

Even more Christmas cheer comes from doctors and nurses who revealed a passion for caroling.

"Last night, unbeknownst to us, the residents were caroling in the halls," said Rivers. The staff was asked to come and sing for the kids Tuesday morning.

Then Santa and friends drop by the nursery, greeting seven babies born on Monday night.

"We send our babies home at this time of the year in a stocking," said Rivers. The stockings and Santa beanie hats are hand-knit and donated by the Still Magnolias Chapter of Monroe to welcome the babies to their very first Christmas.
 
Santa's first ever visit to Conway was a success and the hospital plans to make it a yearly event.

"Especially when they're so sick, they just need someone to make them happy, give them a little joy, let them know that we love them," said Kitchens.
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