The North Pole Network
In the spirit of the holiday season, some Amateur Radio (ham) operators across the
country have found a way to bring joy to hospitalized children. Thanks to the
world-wide range of Amateur Radio equipment, it's possible for hams to
communicate with other hams almost anywhere on earth, including the North Pole.
Fortunately, Santa Claus is able to take time from his busy gift production
duties to speak individually to the hospitalized kids.
In southern California, members of the Hospital Disaster Support Communications
System (HDSCS) annually take their portable ham sets to Childrens Hospital of
Orange County (CHOC). Using the North Pole Network (NPN), which purports to use a special amateur satellite link, ionospheric propagation and VHF relays, kids
can talk one-on-one to St. Nick without having to leave their hospital rooms.
The globe-spanning NPN link means that HDSCS doesn't have to rely on ordinary
Santa-helpers who can only ask, "What is your name and what do you want for
Christmas?" As one patient put it, we talk directly to "the Man, the real
one!" During NPN contacts, Santa is in his North Pole office where he has
access to his mega-computer system. Thanks to the computer and lots of advance
"elf" work by hospital staff, Santa already knows which patient is in each
hospital room and he has a lot of information already stored about each child
and family. The NPN connection gives Santa a chance to make final updates to
his gift request database before loading his sleigh on Christmas Eve. It also
affords him a chance to send greetings and wishes for happiness and a return to
The founder and leader of the Orange County's North Pole Network is April Moell WA6OPS. In addition to CHOC, NPN occasionally visits other Orange County medical facilities, including rehabilitation centers for both adults and children.
Because of ongoing construction work, it was not possible for North Pole Network to take place at Childrens Hospital of OC in 2012. Patients were being moved into the new tower building and our regular staff assistants and setup rooms were unavailable in the weeks leading up to Christmas. We look forward to returning to CHOC in 2013. Here is a report about North Pole Network 2011:
- On Friday, December 16, seven HDSCS communicators responded to Children's Hospital of Orange County in the city of Orange to set up a link to the North Pole station so that patients and family members could have a direct, personal contact with Santa Claus. Despite strong winds at the North Pole, radio propagation was excellent and signals held up well for the over seven-hour North Pole Network event. About fifty "I Talked To Santa on Amateur Radio" buttons were given to patients, siblings, parents and some medical staff members. They earned the buttons by talking to Santa on the radio. Every year, these buttons are received and worn with pride.
- Santa has great elves who do a superb job of collecting advance information on the patients and their families. As patients and their families speak with Santa on the radio from his workshop, there is no doubt that they are talking with the real one. After all, when it's Santa that introduces the patient to the communicator, knows about family members, and confirms that the elves are working on the present that had been requested before by e-mail, how could one not believe?
- Via these contacts, the Big Guy got advance notice about what he might find as his sleigh flew into Orange County on Christmas Eve. Chocolate chip cookies topped the list, but some patients declared that oatmeal and sugar cookies, and maybe even pizza might be waiting. For St. Nick, the best part was the many patients who wanted to tell him, "I love you, Santa!"
- This was the 33rd year for North Pole Network at CHOC and it was just as special as the first. Our medical background and our regular disaster communications service to the hospitals have given CHOC staff members confidence in us. That makes it possible for us to take Santa's voice to the sickest patients. We went in and out of isolation rooms (gowning, gloving and scrubbing as needed) and went from bed to bed in Intensive Care units. That is what Santa wants most -- to talk with the patients who are most likely to be confined to the hospital through Christmas Day and to those whose medical conditions limit their ability to enjoy the holidays. The reactions of family members let us know how important Santa's words were to their children and to them. The personal touch meant a great deal to parents.
- Many thanks to Samantha, Amber and Emily of the Child Life staff at CHOC for making our visit possible.
- The 2011 technical crew included Tom Gaccione WB2LRH, Jim McLaughlin AB6UF, Ken Simpson W6KOS and Woody Woodward W6PA. Joe Moell KØOV was Technical Coordinator. Lead Communicator and overall North Pole Network Coordinator is April Moell WA6OPS.
To learn more about NPN and how it works, read these articles:
To see NPN in action, click to our photo pages:
Our North Pole Network has been featured in the Group W Television production "There Really Is a Santa Claus" as well as a news story on KTTV Channel 11 in Los Angeles. There have been articles about NPN in several publications including NurseZone, a Web site for the nursing profession.
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Text and images on this page ©2002 and 2011 by Joseph D. Moell. Republication of any content in this site without permission is prohibited.
This page updated 4 January 2013
This North Pole Network Web site exists to encourage Amateur Radio groups all over the country and the world to sponsor their own local North Pole Network events. We are always pleased to hear from other groups.