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Terminally ill boy dies in Santa's arms

'Santa, can you help me?' boy says, moments before dying

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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – A man who plays Santa Claus in Tennessee said a terminally ill 5-year-old boy died in his arms after he gave the boy a present in the hospital.

The Knoxville News-Sentinel reported that Eric Schmitt-Matzen, who does about 80 events a year as Santa, was asked a few weeks ago to visit the dying boy.

Schmitt-Matzen said that after giving the boy a toy, the boy asked how he would be able to tell when he got to where he was going after he died.

Schmitt-Matzen told him to tell them that he was "Santa's No. 1 elf" and they would let him in.

He said the boy gave him a big hug, asked "Santa, can you help me?" and died in his arms.

Schmitt-Matzen said it took him days to recover, but he's continuing to play Santa.