Santa Dave returns to bring cheer to Grampians Health Ballarat hospital

Saturday 24 December 2022

Santa made a special trip this week from the North Pole to Grampians Health Ballarat hospital to spread some Christmas cheer. After two years of disruptions to his usual visits, the hospital corridors rang out with his distinctive bell and calls of ‘Ho, Ho, Ho’ as he visited patients, young and old, with his sacks stuffed with Christmas gifts.

Santa Dave (Dave Keene) began his visits in 2011, and staff and patients were delighted to see the popular volunteer back in the hospital. Santa Dave and Mrs Claus visited people across the hospital, including Chemotherapy Day Unit, Dialysis, Medical Day Unit, the Emergency Department and of course, the Special Care Nursery and the Children’s Ward.

During their visit to the Children’s Ward, Santa Dave and Mrs Claus were accompanied by a special elf, Grampians Health CEO, Dale Fraser.  

“It’s Christmas at Grampians Health Ballarat and it is fantastic to see Santa Dave back in person to spread Christmas joy to staff and patients,” Mr. Fraser said.  

“In the past, we’ve had Santa and Mrs Claus visit virtually, but there is nothing like seeing Santa in person. It was absolutely delightful to have Santa in the Children’s Ward and see the smiles on the kid’s faces. We’re so grateful for our volunteers who make this experience so special for our staff, patients, mums and dads, it’s really a joy.” 

Dave Keene volunteers his time and effort to collect donations from over 35 generous Ballarat businesses to help cheer up patients who need to spend Christmas in hospital.  

“The hospital can be a daunting place if you haven’t been here before, and if we can come and make people feel at ease, especially at Christmas time, well, my job is done.”  

When asked why he continues to volunteer, Santa Dave recalls meeting a cancer patient, many years ago at the hospital.  

“I came in and gave a lady a little gift and she started crying. When I asked her why she was crying, she said it was her third bout of cancer, and she wasn’t sure she’d make next Christmas. She was so happy that we’d taken the time to visit the patients, that I nearly cried. It was just that particular moment, with that particular lady, that has always stayed with me and made me realise that we do make an impact on someone’s day. 

“Christmas is for everyone, not just the kids. These people in hospital are often going through things we just can’t imagine, and a gift is just something small. What is special, is sharing time together.” 

For those wanting to visit their loved ones in hospital this Christmas, visitor restrictions are still in place.  

On general wards, each patient can have a maximum of two visitors, once a day, for a total of two hours. Families and friends are encouraged to coordinate their visits to ensure they are adhering to restrictions and there are no more than two people on site. 

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