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Santa video-chats from North Pole with kids in Long Island hospital
Forget slipping down the chimney.
Santa Claus arrived at Cohen Children's Medical Center in New Hyde Park Tuesday via modern technology, video-chatting live from the North Pole with hospitalized children.
The kids grilled Santa on how Mrs. Claus is ("She's after me to lose weight"), what he likes to do for fun ("surf") and whether delivering presents pays well ("It pays in ways that most people, unfortunately, don't understand").
Santa spoke from in front of a fireplace, with stockings hung on the mantel behind him. His face -- white hair, beard and glasses -- was visible on a computer screen.
This is the second year Santa has cyber-visited children in a playroom at the medical center. "Sometimes children are here so long that they don't get to see Santa for the holidays," said Ann Marie DiFrancesca, director of child life. A half-dozen kids and their parents attended, a couple of the children either too young to speak to Santa or too unfamiliar with English to do so.
"How are you?" Santa asked Annalie Guzzo, 11, of Hollis Hills, Queens, who was wearing her hospital gown.
"I'm feeling better, thank you," answered Annalie, who had been hospitalized after an asthma attack. Santa commented on Annalie's "nice pink cheeks" and, when Annalie replied that she was hot, Santa quipped, "I should bring you up to the North Pole with me and let you cool off a bit."
When Santa asked Annalie what she wanted for Christmas, the sixth-grader was ready with her answer: a beanbag chair for her bedroom. "That's kind of a throwback for me," Santa said. "I think I can fit it in the sleigh."
Emma Porcaro, 11, of Bethpage, was awaiting surgery to remove a twisted fallopian tube and spoke to Santa while connected to her IV pole. She asked for a trampoline, a gymnastic mat and Beats headphones.
Isaiah Gil, 9, of Corona, was also hospitalized because of an asthma attack that left him coughing and struggling to breathe. He asked for an iPad.
"An iPad," Santa replied. "The plot thickens. An iPad is a very, very, very important gift." With it comes responsibilities, Santa told a rapt Isaiah. "That means helping out mom and dad at home. That means doing homework. That means eating all the vegetables, not just the good stuff."
Santa's visit was made possible by Cisco Systems' Santa Connection Program, which beams Santa into hospitals nationwide. "I don't have to leave home. I can stay up here at the North Pole, which makes it a little bit more convenient," Santa said of cyber-visiting. "That allows me to see more of my friends close to Christmas, more than just going to the malls and seeing them one by one."
Though Santa did admit missing the closeness of kids sitting on his lap: "That's the give and take of it."