Santa trades sleigh for helicopter to deliver toys to pediatric patients at Sanford Hospital

Whether it’s a reindeer pulled sleigh or a hospital helicopter, Santa makes Christmas merry for kids in the area — especially those at Sanford Hospital in Bismarck.

“The helicopter is still just not as fast as my sled,” said Arctic resident Santa Claus.

Santa Claus and his helpers from the Pilots for Kids organization delivered dozens of toys to the children’s ward of the hospital on Wednesday.

“Being in the hospital is no fun, so if we can make their day a little better by bringing them something, and just get a present to open, it will make their day better,” Claus said.

Emily Lang knows firsthand what it’s like to be in the hospital during the holidays.

“My daughter Presley was born with a rare genetic condition, so she spent a lot of time in the hospital. She recently passed away from RSV, so I just wanted to do something to honor her name,” Lang said.

Now Lang is doing what she can to help Pilots for Kids, a national organization made up of airline pilots who visit children in hospitals during the Christmas season.

“I knew how hard it was during the holidays to have a kid in the hospital because she spent seven vacations in the hospital, so I just wanted to do something nice for other kids,” Lang said.

Steven Schaffner is a fixed wing pilot for Sanford AirMed in Dickinson and the Pilots for Kids coordinator.

He says the group started delivering with Santa in 2019 and has grown since then.

“Ideally, everyone in the state will have a present this year when they get hospitalized in the state of North Dakota, which is our goal,” Schaffner said.

Schaffner says they visited both Sanford and CHI St. Alexius before going to Grand Forks and Minot.

Santa Claus is happy to ride along.

“Merry Christmas boys and girls. Ho ho ho!” said Klaus.

Pilots for Kids has been around since 1983, visiting children’s hospitals and bringing toys and other items to every child.

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