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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) – A Tennessee Santa Claus says 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 reports 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 says 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 he was “Santa’s Number One elf” and they would let him in.

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

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

(Copyright 2016 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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