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Sacramento, Calif.- In the playroom of UC Davis Children’s Hospital, 9-year-old William Davis sat with his leg wrapped in bandages after treatment for severe dog bites and gazed at a large video screen as Santa Claus was beamed in from the North Pole.

It was part of Cisco Systems’ “Santa Connection” program, which gives hospitalized children an opportunity to virtually share their wishes with Santa.

This is how their conversation went:

“And what would you like for Christmas?”

“My main, No. 1 wish is I want my dad to come home.”

“Oh, that’s really special. Where is your dad now?”

“He’s in Cairo, Egypt. I usually Skype him, but I can’t Skype him anymore because my tablet doesn’t work at all.”

William’s wish could have ended with his request for a new tablet computer. But as Santa deals in magic and miracles, there was much more to come.

Six days later, Williams’ mother, Martie Davis, received news that her husband Sgt. First Class William Davis Sr.’s request for medical leave from the U.S. Army was approved, and he would be returning home to Stockton. She worked with UC Davis Child Life and Creative Arts Therapy Department to stage a truly memorable Christmas present for him, and Operation Santa Surprise was born.

“We contacted Cisco System’s Santa Connection coordinator, who put a call into the agency where Santa was hired to see if he would be available,” said Child Life manager Diana Sundberg. “He was more than happy to help, and so were we. We all wanted to make this little boy’s Christmas wish come true.”

The next evening, William was propped up in his hospital bed, talking with his physician, when Santa Claus came through the door, carrying an ornate wooden stick with bells a jingling:

“Hello, William. Remember we talked a little while ago? Do you remember what you asked me for … that the only thing you wanted for Christmas was …”

“For my dad to come home.”

“I’ve been working with our tech elves. We’re trying to figure out a way to get the sleigh to your dad and pick him up or do something really special like that. I wasn’t able to do that, but I was able to arrange for a video call from him. Would you like to talk to your dad?”

The boy nodded and reached out for the iPad that Santa had brought.

The familiar figure of William’s father appeared on the iPad. The pair talked for a few minutes until suddenly, the connection dropped. Santa intervened:

“I’ve got something that might help. These are jingle bells from my sleigh, and I use them to guide my reindeer. They’re very powerful magic. What I’m hoping is that the energy from the jingles will help reconnect the phone. Close your eyes and picture your dad in your mind and let’s shake this real hard.”

The sound of jingling bells filled the room as William closed his eyes tight and shook the stick with Santa. And then the slow, steady sound of footsteps entered the room.

“Now open your eyes.”

William opened his eyes to see his father, dressed in his military uniform, standing before him at the foot of his bed. William stared motionless for a second, frozen with disbelief and shock. Then a huge grin appeared on his face.

“Much better picture now,” said William’s father.

Tears flowed from William’s eyes as his father leaned forward to put his arms around him. It was a hug that transcended space and time — from Egypt to the North Pole and to this hospital room in Sacramento.

“Thank you,” William said to Santa Claus, choking back the tears and wiping his eyes, before giving his father another hug.

“I couldn’t have done it without my elves and without you because it was your wish that made that happen. Magic happens, William. Remember that.”

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