Rappelling Elves Delight Patients in Indiana Hospital

PHOTO: A toddler high-fives one of the elves through the window.
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Christmastime can still be magical in the hospital, which the patients of Riley Hospital for Children at Indiana University Health learned this week when elves rappelled down the side of the 10-story building.

Dressed in pointy shoes and hats and decked out in red and green, the elves suddenly appeared outside patients' windows to wave and smile. Meanwhile, Santa himself made his way through the inside of the hospital to visit with patients and their families and give out gifts.

"Many of our patients can't be home for the holidays," Melissa Sexton, the hospital's special events coordinator, said in a statement. "Our goal is to bring children every ounce of normalcy possible while hospitalized. This is just one of the many special events we arrange for them year-round."

Courtesy Riley Hospital for Children at Indiana University Health
Nathaniel Siktberg, 2, got a special visit from Santa two days after his spinal surgery.

Nathaniel Siktberg, 2, was in the hospital for surgery to help him walk more easily because he was born with tethered spinal cord syndrome, a neurological disorder, his mother, Cassandra Skitberg told ABCNews.com.

The Siktbergs arrived from their home an hour away in Lizton, Ind., for surgery early Dec. 3, but Nathaniel was still recovering.

Courtesy Matt Kryger/Star
An elf rappels down the side of Riley Hospital for Children at Indiana University to wave at patients.

The morning of the elf visit followed a tough night for Nathaniel.

"It was a really rough morning," his mother said. "He was laying in bed, but he did not want to do anything. He was able to get up and move and walk but refused to walk. He didn't want to take steps."

So she thought that seeing Santa and the elves would help.

Courtesy Matt Kryger/Star
Children wave out at the elves from the windows on their floor.

Children were brought into rooms with big windows ahead of the elves' arrival at 10 a.m. on Thursday.

When Siktberg and Nathaniel got to the room on their floor, Nathaniel couldn't help but stare at cables, which were already set up for the elves to begin rappelling.

The children used special markers to write messages to the elves ahead of their visit. Nathaniel couldn't write or draw, but he had a good time scribbling, Siktberg said.

Courtesy Riley Hospital for Children at Indiana University Health
An elf smiles as he touches hands with a patient through the glass.

And then the elves and Santa arrived.

"He was just beaming with joy," Siktberg said.

The elves swung back and forth in front of the windows to play with the children. When they left, children watched them visit lower floors and another building full of patients across the way.

"He woke up this morning and said, 'Is Santa coming and are the elves going to be back?'" Siktberg said. "So it was a really neat experience for him."

Courtesy Riley Hospital for Children at Indiana University Health
Elves rappel down the 10-story building as a holiday treat for patients and families, Dec. 5, 2013.

The hospital thanked American National Skyline, Inc. for bringing the elves and The Cheer Guild, which operates the hospital's toy room, distributing more than 14,000 items to its patients every month.

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