Toddler in hospice care gets chance to sit on Santa's lap for the last time

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(ABC) -

With the Christmas season upon us, it's easy to get lost in the to-do list of the holidays.

But for the Agnew family of Salt Lake City, Utah, a visit from a stranger provided a memory they will never forget.

Miles Agnew, 2, has been in hospice care for months, and his health had been in slow decline. Last week "his little body went into shock and has started to shut down. We don't know what happened," his mother, Michelle Agnew, told ABC News.

He is now at Primary Children's Hospital where his "pain and discomfort can be managed," she said.

Miles was born with microcephaly and also has spastic quad cerebral palsy, cortical vision impairment, intractable epilepsy, brain malformations and feeding intolerance. He was adopted by the Agnews when he was 3 months old. In addition to Miles, the Agnews have two children, Hailey, 13, and Taveon, 11.

On Dec. 5, Miles and his siblings were treated to visit from Santa that was coordinated by the Secret Sleigh Project, an organization that matches medically fragile and home-bound children with Santa visits.

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Jerry Bodily, aka Santa, said the visit was an emotional one that hit close to home.

"Back in the 70s when I met my former wife, she had two daughters, her youngest had been diagnosed with hypoplastic left heart syndrome, and six weeks after we met, she lost her battle, so I knew what the family was going through. I can’t lie, I got choked up, and there was a tear in Santa’s eye, but this was for this family’s memory," he said.

Sarah Portillo, founder of the Secret Sleigh Project told ABC News connecting with the Agnews was "no accident."

"It brings more meaning to the Christmas season," she said. "It elevated my hope that perhaps we are all here to orchestrate small miracles, as long as we are open to the opportunity. I am very grateful that we were able to be a part of this family's day, in some small way, and I will never forget it."

For Agnew, the day was incredibly special.

"With the turn in Miles' health and trying to make more memories as quickly as we can we didn’t think we would be able to do our Santa visit," Agnew said, adding that her family doesn't "take anything for granted. We treasure our time and our memories with our family so much. Although we have had so much heartache in our lives we try our hardest to keep moving forward."

The Agnews lost two other children to genetic conditions.

Despite all the pain she has experienced, Agnew said she remains grateful. "We are so fortunate for all the good times we’ve shared together and are so grateful for the friends, family and medical community that have supported us. Miles is such a special little boy who is very, very loved in our family."

(Editor's note: Santas are still needed in some cities around the country to visit with children. See the list of where there's a need here.)

Check out these photos from across KAKEland snapped by our viewers, staff and local officials. Do you have pictures to share with us? Email them to news@kake.com.

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