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Barack Obama dons Santa hat, surprises children's hospital patients with gifts

In a surprise visit to a Washington, D.C., hospital, the former president passed out gifts and posed for selfies with patients unable to be home for the holidays.
/ Source: TODAY

Santa just got a big assist from a very special helper.

Former President Barack Obama donned a fluffy red cap to surprise patients and pass out a few gifts Wednesday at Children’s National hospital in Washington, D.C.

The facility is the same one his wife, Michelle Obama, visited every holiday season during her time as first lady to read stories to patients. She sometimes came with one of the couple’s two daughters.

This year, it was the 44th president’s turn. He walked the hospital halls with a giant red bag of goodies slung over his shoulder. He visited a hospital playroom and stepped inside patient rooms, to the delight of the children and teens inside.

Obama Santa
Barack Obama poses with a patient to take a selfie. EPA

Dressed casually in a sweater and pair of jeans, Obama posed for selfies while handing out jigsaw puzzles, race cars and other gifts he and his staff collected recently.

He also recorded a video message that could be relayed for the people he couldn't meet during his visit.

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The former president gives a hug to a patient surprised by the visit. EPA

Before he left, hospital staff members greeted the president with a rendition of “We Wish You a Merry Christmas.” Obama responded by thanking the crowd for their work during the holidays.

Obama Santa
Obama thanks staffers at Children's National Medical Center for their work.EPA

“At a time that obviously is tough for folks, and as the dad of two girls, I can only imagine, in that situation, to have nurses, staff and doctors and people who are caring for them, and looking after them, and listening to them and just there for them and holding their hands,” he told the group.

“That’s the most important thing there is,” Obama added. “What a great reminder of what the holiday spirit is supposed to be all about.”

Obama said he enjoyed the chance to "talk to some of the wonderful kids and their families,” and later thanked everyone again for the experience.

"Merry Christmas and happy holidays to the extraordinary kids, families, and staff at Children’s National," he said in a tweet. "And thanks for humoring me as your stand-in Santa."