PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – For nearly three decades, a local group has brought Santa — and a lot of smiles — to children in the Delaware Valley who are suffering from cancer and other diseases. They’re at it again this Christmas Eve.

Chief Claus Jim McCloskey and his merry band of elves — volunteers from LaSalle College High School — make the rounds throughout the city, to St. Christopher’s Hospital for Children, and even to the Lehigh Valley and South Jersey, delivering gifts — and hope — to those who need it most:

“We’re looking at medically challenged family and financially stressed. And we wanted to make sure these kids aren’t going to be left out.”

McCloskey (photo), a director of the non-profit Committee to Benefit the Children, says the need is greater than ever for kids who might not make it to see another Christmas:

“I knocked on the outside door, and a little girl answered and she says, ‘Who is it?’ I say, ‘Santa.’ And all I hear was, ‘Mommy, I told you he was coming!’ She opened the door, it was a little girl, with a beautiful little smile — a 7-year-old that had an advanced stage of cancer. A month later she passed on. But as her mother said, that was a smile that was brought to her face that she hadn’t seen in 11 months.”

He and sleighs-full of volunteers bring presents galore to more than 100 families — not just for the patient, but also for brothers and sisters, and moms and dads:

“We have highway patrol with us, given some of the areas we go into, and I had your standard profile of highway patrol — a guy about 6’7″, the neck the size of your chest. He started rubbing his eyes — he goes, ‘McCloskey, I’ve got two little kids at home, and tonight, I’m going to pull them a little bit closer.’ They see that in the smile that’s there that wasn’t there a year ago, and that’s something we all walk away with. That’s truly the spirit of Christmas.”

For more on how you can help next year’s effort, go to

Reported By Ian Bush, KYW Newsradio.

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