Santa surprises Dartmouth boy at his home

Dec 24, 2017

We’re officially in Christmas crunch-time mode, but Santa recently cleared his holiday schedule to make an important trip to Dartmouth to visit the Garcia family.

The surprise guest from the North Pole flew into town to personally meet 4-year-old Brayden Garcia and his siblings Benjamin (9), and Brianna (1).

Brayden is a thriving student at the The Schwartz School at Meeting Street, and Garcia shared “If you met Brayden when he first enrolled (November 2016) compared to Brayden now, he’s changed so much. He just went to the fire department to escort the gifts for the Toy Drive back to the Schwartz School and he's co-hosting the telethon in January to raise money for the Schwartz School. Even though Brayden has a disability, that doesn’t hinder or define him."

Brayden's holiday surprise was part of the Secret Sleigh Project, which arranges for Santa to visit children with illnesses or disabilities at their own homes.

The program is the brainchild of Colorado resident Sarah Portillo, who has a daughter with needs that made it difficult to trek out to see Mr. Claus.

Portillo imagined how life-changing it would be to have Santa visit her family instead, and thus the Secret Sleigh Project was born. The operation has been up and running for just two years and already has orchestrated hundreds of St. Nick visits for children all over the U.S.

Here in Dartmouth, Brayden’s father, Benjamin Garcia, immediately leapt into action after learning of the Secret Sleigh Project.

“It sounded like it would be good for Brayden. If we were to visit Santa, we’d bring Brayden’s oxygen ventilator, G2 feed, wheelchair – everything that goes with him. This way Brayden would be in his own environment. My wife, Navisha, and I are always trying to do stuff for our kids. It may not be your normal or the guy’s next door normal, but it’s our normal."

Two weeks after Garcia sent the Secret Sleigh Project a message, Santa himself showed up at the family’s home. What’s it like seeing Santa show up on your doorstep? Garcia shared, “My older son answered the door and Santa came in going ‘ho, ho, ho.’”

Complete surprise? Garcia laughed “It was a complete, complete surprise.” Santa gave all the kids presents, took careful instructions about their Christmas wish lists, and read the holiday classic "Twas The Night Before Christmas."

As Garcia summed up, “It was a great experience. Having Santa come here was another way to treat Brayden like any other kid."