CENTRAL WISCONSIN (WSAW) – It’s not every day that Santa pays a visit from the North Pole.
But Saturday, he traded in some snow for Wisconsin sunshine to deliver presents and much-needed cheer to the kids at Marshfield Children’s.
After arriving by Spirit Air helicopter, Santa led more than 100 motorcycles from Bull Falls Harley-Davidson all the way to Marshfield Children’s to wave at the kids and deliver several sleighs of gifts from local businesses. He then headed back to Rothschild for music and raffles.
It’s an annual event but needed more than ever since restrictions on hospital visitors remain in place. Right now, kids may only have one parent visiting at a time.
“It’s really hard for patients to be in the hospital, even for adults it’s hard, especially kids,” said Heidi Giese, manager of Child Life and Expressive Therapies Department for the hospital.
That feeling brought local groups together for a special Christmas in July celebration, where they rode to Marshfield, spreading cheer to kids who need it.
“We really focus on coping, and helping kids be able to still be kids while they’re in the hospital,” Giese explained.
Thanks to the parade, and mountains of toys, for one day, they got to just be kids. Some watched from the window as the motorcycles revved their engines and honked their horns.
“We had way more cycles coming through this year than we ever have before. I wasn’t sure with how the year’s gone for everybody if we would be as successful this year, and we’ve actually been even more successful,” she said.
This year’s Christmas in July goal is to buy a $40,000 entertainment system to make a more pleasant experience for kids having an MRI.
“They need to be drugged so they stay still, but this movie system will allow them to stay still, be full attention on the movie, and there will be no sedations,” said Santa Claus, sometimes known as Greg Cemke, who founded Christmas in July after his own stint at the hospital in Marshfield following an ATV accident.
Despite a temperature near 90 degrees, Santa says he’s happy to suit up for the kids.
“Me ‘sweating’ doesn’t mean anything, compared to those children in the hospital, what they’re going through. This is nothing, this is me for four or five hours. The children, 24 hours a day,” he said.
Over the six years of Christmas in July, Santa has raised more than $120,000 for the kids to have bells and whistles outside of the hospital’s budget.
Also on hand at the event was Children’s Miracle Network “Miracle Child” Lucas and his family from the Wausau area. He was presented with a painting of Christian Yelich, who plays his favorite sport. Lucas also got to ride to Marshfield on the back of a motorcycle.
“It felt like I was in an airplane without a top,” said Lucas Willemon, describing his adventure.
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