Santa Makes Surprise Visit for Child in Willington

One organization helps bring Santa to children with disabilities or illnesses who often can't make the trip to a mall or shopping center for a holiday visit. 

Not everyone gets a personal visit from Santa, but Addison Moran in Willington isn't just anyone. Her mom, Cynthia Rankin, calls her a miracle child. 

"She lights up a room. She loves everybody. She has the biggest smile on her face," Rankin said. 

Rankin said Addison spent her 7th birthday in the hospital after getting pneumonia and rhinovirus. It's something that would be difficult for any child to go through, but especially Addison who has a rare genetic disorder, cerebral palsy and epilepsy. 

"By far the worst, most frightening hospitalization we ever had with her," Rankin said. "It was really hard and stressful on everybody."

After a month in the hospital, the family came home and Santa came knocking.

"Addison was just ecstatic when he walked through the door and we were so happy to see her having the biggest smile on her face after spending so much time at the hospital and being so sick," Rankin said

Santa brought presents and smiles to the entire family and it's all thanks to something called the Secret Sleigh Project. It's based in Colorado and operated by three volunteers. 

The founder, Sarah Portillo, said back in 2015, she wanted to bring Santa home to her daughter who had medical complications and couldn't go see Santa at the mall. Santa came to visit her daughter at home and from there, the idea quickly grew into the Secret Sleigh Project.

Portillo said they've brought Santa to the homes of more than 200 children around the country who have acute medical illnesses, chronic illnesses or can't leave their homes.

Rankin said while she was sitting in the ICU with her daughter, she came across the organization and reached out. 

"She didn't see me until the last moment. She was very quiet and all of a sudden, you could see her hands going and the smile on her face," Santa told NBC Connecticut. 

Santa said it was a heartwarming experience to meet with Addison and her family. He, of course, brought presents for everyone.

"This was a great opportunity for me to bring and share what I have," Santa said.

For Addison and her family, it meant the world.

"I was in tears after he left. I was really, really happy," Rankin said.

Santa said he's already looking forward to visiting with more children like Addison next year.

If you'd like to volunteer or learn more about the Secret Sleigh Project, you can go here.

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