Photo of Boy Praying With Santa for Dad's Health Goes Viral

Boy asks Santa at Bass Pro Shops in Garland to help his father, who is ill

A photo of a North Texas boy and Santa, each with their heads bowed in prayer, went viral after another mom overheard the boy ask Santa to help his sick dad.

The woman was in line with her own son to see Santa at the Bass Pro Shops in Garland on Tuesday evening when she overheard part of the boy's conversation with his family in line. In his hands was his wish list, and all he wanted was good health for his dad and help with the family's medical bills.

The woman, who asked NBC 5 not to use her full name, said the moment touched her heart. She snapped the photo and later shared it on Facebook, asking anyone who saw it to help find the family again.

The family saw the post and reached out.

"I have no real words. It's just been heartwarming that so many people out there believe and care," said Jason Coker, the boy's father.

His son, Jacob, is 12 years old, and his family says he still enjoys seeing Santa every year.

Emily Coker, Jacob's step-mother, said she was touched when Jacob told her he didn't want any toys or gadgets for Christmas.

"He picks up on those things that you don't realize he picks up on until he brings you the glass of water or offers to help," Emily Coker said. "He's just special."

The family says Jason Coker, an electrician, has been in and out of the hospital for two years. Doctors say he has a blood disorder, but they haven't pinpointed the cause. His most recent hospital stay was Dec. 10, so the health concerns were fresh on Jacob's mind when it was time to visit Santa.

Santa was still seeing children at the Garland store when NBC 5 stopped by.

"All he asked for, all he wanted was for me to help his dad," Santa said. "He said he had a lot of pain."

Santa told NBC 5 that he explained his expertise is in toys, but he offered to pray with Jacob.

"I asked that the Lord would help him with the pain and that he would have enough joy in his heart to get through the pain," he said.

Janet Contreras, a Bass Pro Shops employee, saw the exchange, too.

"It broke my heart, especially when I turned and saw the mom in tears," Contreras said. "It definitely tugged at my emotions."

"It brought it closer to home for me, because that's what Christmas is all about," said store manager Kathy Thompson. "Those special moments and innocent moments of a child, sharing a moment with Santa just kind of brings us back to what Christmas is all about."

Since the post was shared more than 8,000 times as of Thursday, strangers have offered to help the Coker family with Christmas presents and money. The family started a GoFundMe page.

Another Facebook user opened a bank account to accept donations, but the Coker family says they have not been contacted about the account. A local business has reached out to the family to help sponsor them for the holidays.

"Thank you very much for your prayers, for your thoughts, for your help and for making this a Christmas our children will never forget and that we will never forget," Emily Coker said.

MORE: If you would like to contribute to the Coker family's GoFundMe page, click here.

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