Editor’s note from News Sentinel: Since publication of this story, the News Sentinel has done additional investigation in an attempt to independently verify Schmitt-Matzen’s account. This has proven unsuccessful. Although facts about his background have checked out, his story of bringing a gift to a dying child remains unverified. The News Sentinel cannot establish that Schmitt-Matzen’s account is inaccurate, but more importantly, ongoing reporting cannot establish that it is accurate.
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — He’s got rosy cheeks, the perfect white beard and has a belly like a bowl full of jelly.
He was even born on St. Nicholas Day.
While Santa — also known as Eric Schmitt-Matzen — has heard many a Christmas request from children each year, he was able to grant one of the most important wishes of his life this year.
It came just in time for a 5-year-old little boy during the final moments of his own life.
Knoxville News Sentinel reports that on that day several weeks ago, Schmitt-Matzen had just gotten home from work. That’s when he got a call from a nurse at a local hospital. She told him the little boy, who was very sick, wanted to see Santa.
It took him 15 minutes to get to the hospital. The little boy’s mother gave him a PAW Patrol toy that she wanted him to give her son.
She and other family members stayed in the hallway crying as Schmitt-Matzen went into the boy’s room.
He tells the News Sentinel that when he went into the room, the little boy looked very weak. He sat on his bed and said, “Say, what’s this I hear about you’re gonna miss Christmas? There’s no way you can miss Christmas! Why, you’re my Number One elf!”
He gave the little boy the present, and said when he opened it and what it was, he smiled big and laid his head down.
The boy then told him: “They say I’m going to die. How can I tell when I get to where I’m going?”
Schmitt-Matzen told him when he got there to tell everyone he was Santa’s No. 1 elf and that he’d be let right in.
The boy then sat up and gave the man a big hug asking, “Santa, can you help me?”
Then, he died in Santa’s arms.
“I cried all the way home,” Schmitt-Matzen told the News Sentinel . “I was crying so hard, I had a tough time seeing good enough to drive. It took me a week or two to stop thinking about it all the time. Actually, I thought I might crack up and never be able to play the part again.”
But he did end up doing one more gig, and said it “made me realize the role I have to play. For them and for me.”