Here comes Santa Claus! Families with special needs receive magical visit

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Published: Nov. 14, 2019 at 11:30 AM CST
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A visit to Santa Claus at the mall is a Christmas tradition that families with special needs or complex medical conditions don't always get to enjoy. Enter the Secret Sleigh Project. It's an organization that's sending Santa to these families.

The Prindle family knows this feeling. Winter is a challenging season for Ryan Prindle.

"We have to be extremely cautious because a simple virus to Ryan turns into a major illness," says Brenda Prindle.

Ryan was born premature at 27 weeks. He developed complications including Hydrocephalus--a build up of fluid in the brain.

There is no official diagnosis, but doctors suspect Ryan has a mitochondrial disease.

"Our goal for him is quality of life. We just focus on that being our main issue. Doing the things that make him happy, but he's totally dependent. He can't do anything for himself," says Brenda Prindle.

Ryan is 25-years-old, but to his family, he is like a child. His medical condition makes it impossible for him to get out and see Santa.

Santa is one of the things that makes him happy.

The Secret Sleigh Project comes right to Ryan's door and the homes of kids with special medical needs.

"The memories are probably the number one thing. We have multiple videos and pictures of Ryan's Santa visits and we just treasure those," says Brenda Prindle.

Santa also cherishes these unforgettable moments.

"When I get to go into these homes and I see these children and they look at me and they roll their eyes because they can't talk, they crack that beautiful smile that they have and they start drooling, I know they are connecting with me," says Santa.

This Santa has a day job as a truck driver. The rest of the time he spends at his winter wonderland in Fond du Lac.

A Colorado mom who has a daughter with special needs started the Secret Sleigh Project in 2015. So far, more than 1,000 families in the United States have enjoyed a Santa visit.

"It's a simple gesture where they don't have to get out, they don't have to load up the machines and the medicines and worry about illness," says Sarah Kordis, The Secret Sleigh Project.

"I know what it's like to be a family who doesn't know how the holidays are going to go with a child who is chronically ill."

These families are enjoying the Christmas magic and memories that will last a lifetime.

"God forbid it happens to be the last Christmas they have with their loved one, they had that joy," says Santa.

If you would like to sign up for a Santa visit through Secret Sleigh Project, email

The deadline to sign up is Dec. 1.

to follow Secret Sleigh Project on Facebook.

The Secret Sleigh Project

For many families, visiting Santa at the mall is a Christmas tradition. But, for others who have children with special needs or complex medical conditions -- it's not possible. There's an organization that's changing that though -- sending Santa right to their door. I'll tell you about The Secret Sleigh Project Thursday on Action 2 News at Six.

Posted by Kristyn Allen WBAY on Wednesday, November 13, 2019

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