By Pat Loeb

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – Christmas can be a difficult holiday for sick children and their families, but there are people willing to go the extra mile to raise their spirits.

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St. Christopher’s Hospital social worker Robin Carpecci says the hospital tries to send children home for the holiday but there are children too seriously ill for even a short visit:

“So instead, we brought Santa Claus here with all his elves to try to put smiles on their faces.”

The oncology clinic was pandemonium as Santa they delivered presents Wednesday to the very sickest patients.

“On Christmas Eve, there can’t be a lonelier place for some eight-year-old kid than sitting there, trying to figure out why he got dealt the hand that he did,” says “Santa.”

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Santa is also known as Jim McCloskey, a businessman who has been making these visits for 36 years, to try to erase those grim thoughts. It can be a challenge, like the 12-year-old with sickle cell, who told him she didn’t believe in Santa.

“…and I said, ‘you know, I can understand that but you have to understand Santa’s not a person. Santa’s a spirit of friendship and love and we’re here for one person. That’s how important you are so, yes, there really is a Santa’.”

McCloskey says he thinks she understood. At least, she smiled — her gift to him. He adds he can’t imagine celebrating Christmas any other way:

“There’s a spirit in this place that you’re not going to find in any other hospital. I’ve never seen anything like it.”

And Carpecci says the hospital can’t imagine Christmas without McCloskey and all the volunteers.

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