While the children are snuggled all tight in their beds, Santa will be an awfully busy fellow. Besides delivering pres-ents all over the world, he will also be visiting patients at Cottonwood Hospital on Christmas Eve.
Of course Santa gets a little help here and there. Norm Eastwood has been helping Santa make the rounds for 17 years now. "The most rewarding part is to see the excitement - the sparkle in the patients' eyes - when they see Santa. Especially the older ones. Many of them didn't expect to be visited, and they are very appreciative."Eastwood visits every patient, and pres-ents each one with a stocking made by volunteers at Cottonwood Hospital. These Christmas festivities are coordinated by Barbara Harris, Director of Volunteer Services, who oversees a staff of about 225 junior and adult volunteers.
Eastwood first got started in this Christmas business when a neighbor was looking for a Santa Claus to visit the prison for Christmas parties there. That was almost 20 years ago.
Prisoners and their families attend these parties, which can be quite an experience, Eastwood said. One small child of an inmate sat on Eastwood's lap and told him, "Daddy's been naughty." "Nobody's more honest than a little kid," he said.
Even the prisoners take a turn on Santa's lap. One feisty fellow jokingly challenged Santa. "What would you do if I pulled your beard off," he asked. Eastwood says he was quick to respond. "I told him I would break his arm. He got off my lap."
The visits to Cottonwood Hospital provide some of the most touching moments for Eastwood. "I really like visiting the maternity ward. It is the happiest place in the hospital. The parents get to take their first picture of the baby with Santa. Last year I had my picture taken with twins, one on each arm."
Eastwood's commitment to helping Santa has already taken him through one Santa suit. "My wife made my suit, and this is the second one she's made," he said, patting his plush red belly.
While most everyone would like to be with family on Christmas, Eastwood is out brightening the day for those who can't, and his family understands. "When the kids were growing up, they knew Dad was Santa's helper because he was gone on Christmas Eve."