Story About Santa Granting A Child's Final Wish Cannot Be Verified

December 12, 2016

Edit: After this story was published, the Knoxville News Sentinel made a statement saying it could not independently verify this story as either true or false.

One 5-year-old boy in Tennessee got his Christmas wish fulfilled this year, and the Santa Claus who helped him will never be the same.

Eric Schmitt-Matzen, a professional Santa Claus who looks suspiciously like the real deal with an epic white beard and twinkling eyes, told the Knoxville News Sentinel he recently received a phone call from a nurse about a very sick young boy who was in his final hours.

The boy was apparently so sick that there was no time for Schmitt-Matzen to don his Santa suit.

"I told her, 'OK, just let me change into my outfit,'" he told the News Sentinel. "She said, 'There isn’t time for that. Your Santa suspenders are good enough. Come right now.'" 

When Schmitt-Matzen got to the hospital 15 minutes later, the boy was in bad shape. The 60-year-old mechanical engineer immediately became emotional. 

"I sized up the situation and told everyone, '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.'"

He was supposed to give the boy a toy from the TV show "Paw Patrol," but the boy was so weak he had trouble even unwrapping the gift.

Here's what happened next, according to how Schmitt-Matzen relayed the story to the News Sentinel:

"'They say I'm gonna die,' he told me. 'How can I tell when I get to where I'm going?' 

said, 'Can you do me a big favor?'

He said, 'Sure!'

When you get there, you tell 'em you're Santa's Number One elf, and I know they'll let you in.

He said, 'They will?'

I said, 'Sure!'

He kinda sat up and gave me a big hug and asked one more question: 'Santa, can you help me?'

I wrapped my arms around him. Before I could say anything, he died right there. I let him stay, just kept hugging and holding on to him."

The boy's family rushed into the room, and Schmitt-Matzen left. He said he ran crying past the nurses' station, questioning whether he could continue on as Santa Claus. He even told his wife to go visit their grandchildren the next day without him, as he "was a basket case for three days." But he found the strength to go on, realizing he had to keep making appearances as the jolly old elf, "for [the children] and for me."

Schmitt-Matzen, whose personal Facebook page is, of course, filled with Santa photos (his wife makes the perfect Mrs. Claus), shared the story early Monday morning, and his friends poured out their love and support for a man who clearly loves his job.

If that doesn't get you in the Christmas spirit, I don't know what will.