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Born with a congenital heart defect, Kyle and Sasha Daniel’s infant son, Hayden, died last year, just a few days short of his first Christmas. So this year, Kyle Daniel planned to have a framed picture of his son photographed with Santa as a gift for his wife.
“On December 19, 2014, Hayden passed away in my arms. His lungs had become weak and just stopped working. He was just a few days away from being six months old,” Daniel told TODAY Parents.
Daniel, who lives in Statham, Georgia, says he arrived at his local mall and approached the area where Santa was located.
“I walked up to Santa and said, ‘I have a request, my son passed away last year.’ I started to get choked up,” said Daniel. “He reached out for Hayden’s picture and said, ‘Absolutely.’ I had a wave of relief come over me. It was hard to walk in and ask that. In just one word, he made a situation easy.”
That Santa was Caleb Sigmon, a 22-year-old theater artist, illusionist and speaker who has been playing Santa since he was three years old. Sigmon describes his time in the red suit as “helping Santa,” adding that although the opportunity only lasts for a season every year, he finds the job to be one of his most rewarding roles.
Soon after meeting Daniel, Sigmon wrote a Facebook post about the touching moment he shared with the grieving dad. The post quickly went viral and was shared more than 677,000 times after being posted on Love What Matters' Facebook page. Many parents reached out to Sigmon to tell stories of their own losses, and many hearts touched by Sigmon’s words.
“As he walked out, we all had tears in our eyes. I'm sharing this to remind us all that Christmastime is unbelievably hard for some families. Pray for the brokenhearted. Smile at people. Just be kind. Love one another,” Sigmon wrote in his post.
Daniel says he and his wife, who is 15 weeks pregnant with their second child, are grateful to Sigmon for helping to tell their son’s story. The couple maintains a memorial Facebook page dedicated to Hayden, and finds comfort in knowing that others are learning about their child’s life.
“We are really surprised about it becoming viral,” said Daniel. “I think it has touched so many people because of what (Sigmon) did. It was an act of kindness — more people need to be kind to each other.”
Sigmon says this isn’t the first time he’s been moved by a request made to Santa, adding that he and his wife, Katy, a costume designer who creates her husband’s Santa outfit and makeup, often pray together for the needs brought to him by visitors.
“People ask Santa things they just don’t tell other people — not just children, but grown-ups, too,” said Sigmon. “I’ve had more adults ask me for jobs this year than ever…I’ve been asked by boys and girls to bring their father home, or keep their parents together. I can’t do these things, but what I can do is pray for them…my job as Santa is about sharing love. This is what it’s about.”