Written by: Abhi Gupta – Follow Abhi on Twitter @AbhigupK
Christmas is just around the corner and children around the world are eagerly preparing for their annual visit from their holiday hero- Santa Claus. The highlight for most children is meeting Santa, rather in a mall, at Christmas parties or another type of local event. This is the exciting moment where children get to sit on his lap and share their Christmas wish list. However, the children who are in hospital during the Holiday season, do not get these same opportunities, and miss the chance to meet their beloved St. Nick.
That is why, Cisco, year after year, continuously partners with hospitals across Canada to run Cisco’s Connected Santa program. The goal of this program is to bring the magic of Christmas back to these children and let them meet Santa Claus through the power of technology. Santa visits children in playrooms using Cisco’s personal Telepresence units, a high-definition video-conferencing device that makes the children feel as if they are in the same room as Santa. Those who are not feeling well enough to come to the playroom also do not miss their chance to meet St. Nick. In the spirit of helping Santa reach every child, iPad’s running Cisco Jabber software bring Santa live in real time, to them for a beside visit.
Santa himself is situated in a high definition Telepresence room in Cisco Canada’s Toronto office. The room is decorated to mimic the North Pole. Cisco elves at the hospital learn the name, age, siblings and likes of each child. Through Cisco WebEx Connect IM, a direct messaging tool, they then pass this information to elves in Toronto who are able to brief Santa so that the experience is personalized for every child.
This will be the fourth year I am involved with the Cisco Connected Santa program in Vancouver, BC. For me, this is the “must-do” event of Cisco Canada’s Corporate Social Responsibility program. Seeing the smiles on the children as they spy Santa on the Telepresence unit from afar, or as they are pleasantly surprised to hear Santa already knows their name and that of their siblings, or when Santa comes to their room to visit them, even when they are sick, makes it all worth it. It is a testament to their resilience.
For the children, it brings a small ray of sunshine amongst a painful time. Last year, one child got missed during our visit to BC Children’s Hospital because he suddenly had to go for tests. He was so upset over this that the Director called me and asked if we could make a special visit for him. Luckily Santa was scheduled to visit children in Edmonton the next day so we carved out time to bring Santa to meet that child. The child was overjoyed to meet Santa and was in high spirits the rest of the day.
For the hospital staff involved, this is a bright day too. Staff have confided with us that they try to make sure they are on shift, or around while we are on site so they can see the Christmas sparkle in the children and their family.
This year Connected Santa will be running the week of December 7 at eight hospitals across the country. Cisco elves are gearing up and making preparations to bring the Christmas magic to the sick children. Much like the children who visit Santa in malls, children in these hospitals will be able to talk to Santa and pass their wish list, giving St. Nick enough time to make his list and check it twice!