LBFD Firefighters and Santa visit a patient's bedside

“Ho, Ho, Ho” was heard throughout the halls of MemorialCare Miller Children’s & Women’s Hospital Long Beach for the first time in three years as Santa and the Long Beach Fire Department made surprise bedside visits to the patients of various units. Dressed in full uniform, Long Beach firefighters took the place of Santa’s helpers and escorted Santa room by room to deliver a surprise bedside visit and a special gift to the children that they will never forget. Santa was as jolly as ever and the children could not hold back their smiles, laughter, or their wish list.

Partnering with the Cherese Mari Laulhere Child Life Program, Long Beach Fire Department Firefighters spent their morning organizing special gift bags for patients, which included puzzles, coloring books, small toy dalmatians, and an LBFD shirt - dropping off the gifts with their special guest, Santa, into the rooms of patients at Miller Children’s & Women’s.

“This is the first time in three years we’ve done bedside visits to the patients,” says Greg Curiel, Battalion Chief, Long Beach Fire Department. “We’ve done other events this year, such as the Halloween Trick-or-Treat, but we didn’t get to visit any patients bedside. The last two Christmas visits were virtual, so we are all excited to come back and get closer to our mission, brining smiles back to these patients.”

During Santa’s visit there were plenty of smiles and gifts to go around. The surprised look on the children’s faces when Santa came through the door was undeniable, and the parents loved it even more. Bringing joy to patients who are going through treatment helps lighten the atmosphere of being hospitalized during the holidays. The Long Beach Firefighters helped Santa hand off gift bags to nurses for kids in isolation and waved to kids from the doorway with Santa to ensure they were staying safe and healthy.

“We are so thankful to have the Long Beach Fire Department back in person for the first time since 2019,” says Rita Goshert, director, Cherese Mari Laulhere Child Life Program. “Seeing these kids’ faces light up brightens up the day for the families and the staff taking care of them as well.”

Creating moments, like Santa visiting, helps to lift patients’ spirits and give them a sense of normalcy. The Child Life Program strives to create a kid friendly experience for children staying at Miller Children’s & Women’s Hospital Long Beach. The reward for them are the endless smiles and laughter they bring to the children - and the gifts for the children don’t hurt either.