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Bay area Emergency Amateur Radio Service
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Hospital turns to radio to get message to Santa

With less than two weeks until Christmas, Santa's helpers are using the airwaves to fast track sick kids' wishes all the way to the North Pole.

Tampa, Florida- Thousands of miles from the North Pole, HAM radio operators are tuning in from St Joseph's Children's Hospital in Tampa.

"The north pole's a long way away. No cell phones up there," said Len Calahan, who is the Senior Maintenance Mechanic for the hospital and a member of the BayCare Emergency Amateur Radio Service (BEARS).

BEARS uses HAM radios in the event that telephone services are down to get word out and in. "If something like Katrina happens, we can talk to volunteers and communicate to just about anyone," said Calahan. In this case, BEARS techs use the radios to connect kids who are spending the holidays in the hospital to St. Nick himself.

"Whether they understand the technology or not, they are hearing Santa Claus and that's making a little bit of a difference," said Bob McElroy, who goes room to room letting kids make Christmas requests through a two way communicator. "They have been asking for pretty much across the rainbow."

This year, 11-year-old Ty Nguwyen sent an especially urgent request to Santa. "Santa, this year for Christmas I would like a cure for cancer," he said through the walkie talkie.

Nguwyen has T-Cell Lymphoma. While he hopes Santa will come through in time for the holiday, Ty's 14-year-old sister has promised him a very special present. She is planning to be his bone marrow donor. It's a sacrifice this holiday season that will certainly put her on the top of Santa's list when he gets off the airwaves and takes to the sky.

This is the first year the St. Joseph's Children's Hospital radio service has connected kids to Santa.

David Leonard, 10 Connects.