JOPLIN — Santa Claus took time out of his busy schedule to come to the Freeman West Hospital’s NICU on Monday to give 14 babies in the NICU presents and have his photo taken with them.

JOPLIN — Santa Claus took time out of his busy schedule to come to the Freeman West Hospital’s NICU on Monday to give 14 babies in the NICU presents and have his photo taken with them.
“It is fantastic (to come here), this is my favorite event of the entire year,” said Santa Claus. “Holding these little babies, doing something special for them and… making a very nice gift for these kids and these families, it is just wonderful.”
Making his rounds, Santa stopped in every room of the NICU with presents in one hand and smile on his face, ready to hold the NICU babies.
Mindy Spears was getting ready for Santa to come into her daughter, Nia’s room.
“I have been in the hospital since Dec. 7, it is very exciting to have a Christmas baby because we didn’t get all of our Christmas shopping done, so we have been telling everybody that this is their Christmas gift,” Spears said. “It (seeing Santa) is going to be really great, because this is her first seeing of Santa Claus and first Christmas.”
Spears is grateful for the NICU and for all of their help.
“They are so helpful, you don’t understand how much they do to make everything so much easier,” she said. “We actually become a family and good friends. I get to call whenever I want, they tell me exactly how much that she ate, what she is doing and it is very, very great.”
As Santa started to head out of the NICU, he gave some advice to the other children around the Four States.
“Well, I would like to tell them that Christmas is just a few days away so, make sure that they stay on the nice list,” he said. “Make sure that they are in bed nice and early on Christmas Eve and if they don’t mind, some milk and cookies might be nice for Santa.”