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'He's definitely strong': Santa brings hope to local kids

Toi Porter Jr.jpg
Posted at 4:21 AM, Dec 18, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-18 08:24:13-05

SUFFOLK, Va. - Even during a pandemic, Santa is working hard to get presents ready for December 25.

For yet another year, Santa and Mrs. Claus are making a pre-Christmas visit to Edmarc Hospice for Children in Portsmouth. Edmarc is a nonprofit that provides home healthcare for kids with life-threatening illnesses.

"This group of children with Edmarc is just so special. They're a special group of kids, and we just can't forget them. We've gotta find some way to take care of them and have them feel a little bit of the Christmas joy that we're trying to bring to them," said Mark King, otherwise known as Santa.

On a normal year, employees and volunteers with Edmarc partner with Santa and the local fire department to spread cheer to every child in their care.

"Normally, we'd get together with a fire company - we load up in the fire trucks and head there with one of the emergency vehicles, load it up with presents plus Edmarc's presents, and we go to homes one at a time," said Santa.

However, this year because of COVID-19, there will be no fire trucks or carolers singing. The tradition is smaller, but still, the Mr. and Mrs. in red are safely packing presents to bring to the pint-sized fighters.

One of those fighters is Toi Porter Jr. in Suffolk. When he heard Santa's voice from around the corner, his eyes filled with wonder.

In that moment, the 7-year-old wasn't thinking about his neuroblastoma; he was just trying to guess what Santa brought him.

"It looked like a big bike!" Toi said with joy.

His mother, Adrea Walton, looked on with a smile on her face and said, "I really like Edmarc. They're a big help all throughout the year, not just Christmas; they're a big help. They even have helped offset the cost of bills when we're out of work or we can't get to work because we're in the hospital with him, so they're a big help."

They're also a big help in the kitchen. Edmarc gifted the Porters and 79 other families a full meal.

"It's a big whole family event. It's not just an individual child thing; we take care of the whole family," Santa said.

After a few minutes with Father Christmas, Toi and his little brother, Legend, couldn't help themselves from unwrapping their new gifts.

"I would like to thank Edmarc, though, because they've definitely been through it - being here for my son, making him happy," said Toi Porter Sr.

Walton added, "To anybody else who is going through what we are, just hang in there. Stay strong and keep praying - don't give up."

So, to Edmarc and Santa, the boys say, "Thank you!"