When you think of Santa Claus, it’s likely that an image springs to mind of a jolly old man with a snowy white beard and spectacles – which is exactly how Eric Schmitt-Matzen looks.
It makes sense that Eric plays the role of Santa Claus, being 6-foot tall and weighing 310 pounds.YouTube Source: YouTube
He doesn’t need a fake beard, because his is real, and totally convincing in its full glory, though Eric has to bleach it often to maintain its whiteness.
Eric isn’t your typical temporary mall Santa. He’s professionally trained, but it’s more than that – he was born on December 6, St Nicholas Day, and his wife Sharon is also in on the act, playing Mrs. Claus.
When Eric is wearing everyday clothes, he can’t help donning Santa suspenders, and his phone (with a “Jingle Bells” ringtone), counts down the days until Christmas.Unsplash Source: Unsplash
It’s safe to say that Eric might just have one of the most joyful jobs in the world.
But being one of the most idolized people in the world has its downfalls. He often has to play his role in deeply heartwrenching situations – as he did one December in 2016.
Eric received a phone call from a local hospital that year, and a nurse explained that a very sick 5-year-old child wanted to see Santa.Unsplash Source: Unsplash
His job was simple: to make sure the little boy got to experience Christmas for the very last time.
Speaking candidly about his experience on the day that would stick with him forever, he said:
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“I gotta be the happy guy. I gotta be the guy that goes in and makes him feel like he’s number one.”
He explained that he told the little boy’s family to leave the room and “cry in the hallway”, telling them that afterward, he’d sit out there and cry with them.
But for now, he had a job to do, which was to portray the happy, jolly Santa from storybooks – despite the distressing situation.YouTube Source: YouTube
Being the professional that he is, Eric was able to keep in character as he sat down at the little boy’s bedside.
He put on his “jolly voice” and told the kid that he’d heard he’d be missing Christmas this year.
According to Eric, the child replied that yes, that was right, he was dying.YouTube Source: YouTube
Eric recalled handing the little boy his present, noticing that he could barely unwrap it.
He fought back tears as he explained that he’d said to the little boy:
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“When you get up those pearly gates, you just tell them you’re Santa’s number one elf.”
According to Eric, the little boy had perked up and said, “I am?” to which Eric replied:
“You sure are, I’m sure they’ll let you right in.”
The boy then gave Eric a big hug, he said, and asked him, “Santa, can you help me?”
And it was at that moment that the 5-year-old passed away.YouTube Source: YouTube
When he looked back at the window, the boy’s mom began to yell and scream.
Speaking to Knoxville News Sentinel , he said that having spent four years in the Army with the 75th Rangers, he’d seen his fair share of stuff – but this encounter had left him “bawling my head off”.
It stuck with him so hard that he almost hung up his Santa suit for good, but he put on one more show. It was watching the happy children who had come to visit him that made him realize the importance of his job.Unsplash Source: Unsplash
You can watch the emotional video of Eric recalling the moment he gave a little boy his last wish just below.
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