Editors Note: Since publication, The Knoxville News-Sentinel has attempted to independently verify Eric Schmitt-Matzen's story of bringing a gift to a dying child. Although facts about the Santa Claus actor's background have checked out, his account of events remains unverified, as he has promised to protect the family's identity, and the News-Sentinel cannot establish that it is accurate or inaccurate.
Because the story doesn't meet the newspaper's standards of verification, the Knoxville News-Sentinel says it is no longer standing by the veracity of Schmitt-Mazen's account.
A Tennessee Santa Claus says a terminally ill 5-year-old boy died in his arms after he gave the boy a present in the hospital.
The Knoxville News-Sentinel reports Eric Schmitt-Matzen, who does about 80 events a year as Santa, was asked a few weeks ago to visit the dying boy.
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Schmitt-Matzen says after giving the boy a toy, the boy asked how he would be able to tell when he got to where he was going after he died. Schmitt-Matzen told him to tell them he was "Santa's Number One elf" and they would let him in.
He says the boy gave him a big hug, asked "Santa, can you help me?" and died in his arms. Schmitt-Matzen says it took him days to recover, but he's continuing to play Santa.