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Bringing holiday cheer to central Iowa with virtual Santa Claus visits

The free visits will be held through Dec. 22.

DES MOINES, Iowa — COVID Recovery Iowa is offering free virtual Santa Claus visits this holiday season. 

The program, which helps people impacted by COVID-19, also offers counseling sessions and assists Iowans find the resources they need.  

Karen Hyatt, the Emergency Mental Health Specialist at the Department of Human Services, said the virtual visits are a safe alternative for kids of all ages to still meet and talk with Santa.

"Children can call and talk to Santa about reindeer, or elves or what's the North Pole really like," Hyatt said. 

To sign up for a time to see the big guy in the red suit, head to COVID Recovery Iowa's Facebook page, and click on services

Then proceed to select "Book" and click on a date and time. 

Acting as the virtual Mr. Claus this year is Marvin Shultz. He said he's played Santa before and kids' reactions to meeting him are what keep him coming back.

"Their mouths drop open when they're able to see Santa and his elf, talk about the reindeer and my favorite type of cookie," Shultz said.

However, he said one wish from a little boy stood out this year. He mentioned it was kind of sad.

"'He said he wanted his family to be happy, again,'" Shultz said.

Hyatt said answers like that are coming from kids because this year has been hard for everyone. 

She noted that participating in family events like virtual visits with Santa Claus could be helpful to kids struggling right now and give them some sense of normalcy.  

"One of the ways people heal is through keeping their routines as close to normal as possible," Hyatt said. "So around the holiday we really wanted to provide parents with a safe tool to follow on with a tradition." 

Virtual visits with Santa Claus run through Dec. 22.

During these visits, if parents are looking for help to find gifts for their kids, COVID Recovery Iowa can point them towards organizations that might be able to help.

RELATED: Socially-distanced Santa visits Downtown Des Moines

RELATED: NORAD Santa Tracker launches Tuesday

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