KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WTXF) — In a story Dec. 13, a story was published, relying on information from the Knoxville News-Sentinel, about a man portraying Santa Claus who says a terminally ill boy died in his arms. The newspaper now says that it cannot independently verify the man's story and no longer stands by it. The man has told the same story to other media outlets but refused to divulge identifying details to the newspaper, including the name of the boy or the hospital where he died.
The original story can be found below:
KNOXVILLE, TN- Santa grants a terminally ill boy a final wish.
FOX's Rebecca Habegger spoke with the man at the center of a heart-wrenching story that's going viral during the holiday season.
There's no blending in over his lunch hour for this old Santa Claus, who sometimes tries to go undercover as Eric Schmitt-Matzen of Jacksboro, Tennessee.
But kids, always know, and Santa, never minds the attention.
"98 percent of it's fun," Matzen explained.
But those other times, can be hard.
Take a few weeks ago for example. Santa was called to the hospital bedside of a terminally ill 5-year-old east Tennessee boy.
How does one even begin to enter such a situation?
"You have to start off with the jolly voice! You know, that kind of stuff, you know. 'What's this I hear you're going to be missing Christmas this year?' 'Yeah, they tell me I'd dying.' 'Really, well you're not going to miss Christmas! The elves already had the present already made. We knew you wanted this for a long time!'" Matzen recalled of that day.
Santa gave the boy a toy, and these words:
"When you get up to those pearly gates, you just tell them you're Santa's Number One Elf.' He's like, 'I am?' I said, 'You sure are. I'm sure they'll let you right in.' He goes, 'They will?' I said, 'I know it.' And he just came up and he gave me a big hug. He had a hold of me and he just kind of looked up at me and he says, 'Santa, can you help me?' And that's when he passed."
He gave the one gift he could.
"When I got there, my job was to make sure that he got Christmas," Matzen explained.
He says the smiles on kids' faces are what keep him going, since joy goes both ways.