Jim Hipp is the perfect Santa Claus for the annual holiday party at the burn unit held at Akron Children’s Hospital in Ohio, and it isn't because he has the white beard and the red suit.
It's because he is a burn survivor.
Fifteen years ago, Hipp was working as an industrial electrician in Georgia when a fire ignited, causing nearly 14,000 volts of electricity to surge through his body. With 52 percent of his body badly burned, he was placed in a medically induced coma and eventually flown to Akron to complete treatment.
In 2004, at the urging of two fire fighter friends, he decided to give back to the hospital that helped him heal by playing Santa at their annual Holiday party. The children have embraced him with open arms, he said.
“They say, 'Oh look, he’s hurt too’ and they will touch my face,” Hipp said.
Hipp, who has undergone more than 90 surgeries to correct some of his disfigurement, said he believes working with the children at Akron’s Children is the greatest thing he’s ever done in his life.
“I see their faces when I come out as Santa and they don’t care that you’re burned,” he said. “They just care that you’re Santa."