A mobile app is helping to bring the magic of Santa Claus to kids around the world, including those facing some of life's toughest challenges.
The "Portable North Pole" app connects children with a personalized phone call or video from Santa Claus in four languages: English, Spanish, French and Italian.
In 2021, the app reached millions of people, Alexandre Bérard, founder and CEO (Chief Elf Officer) of Portable North Pole, told FOX Business.
"The Portable North Pole platform generated over 35 million personalized videos and over 500,000 personalized calls," Bérard, who lives in Montreal, told FOX Business via email.
There are "over 90 different messages" available, with all calls coming "direct from Santa," he also said.
"Users can watch their loved ones’ faces light up with one-of-a-kind personalized cinematic messages, complete with the option to choose your own adventure scenarios with Santa and/or using our Reaction Recorder to record your child’s reaction," said Bérard.
Beyond Christmas, Bérard said that parents can use Portable North Pole's messages from Santa "to help improve or congratulate good behavior from their children" — and can also schedule a call from Santa.
While Bérard serves as Portable North Pole's "chief elf officer," he said that the idea was actually his wife's.
There's even a bit of child-appropriate lore surrounding the app's creation.
"The whole idea behind the platform was to update the tradition of writing letters to Santa," he said.
"First, because young children are usually much more visual and a lot of them still don’t know how to read and write at this age."
There's even a bit of child-appropriate lore surrounding the app's creation, said Bérard.
"As we like to say, a group of inventor elves contacted us to help create a console so that Santa could be in contact with all the children of the world, straight from his village," he said. "From there, Portable North Pole was born."
Special care is taken to ensure that a child's name is pronounced correctly in the messages, Bérard said.
"Portable North Pole currently offers over 50,000 pronunciations in English, French, Spanish and Italian," said Bérard, with an "85% accuracy rate."
"For each name, we record all the various pronunciations. Names are pronounced differently depending on which part of the world you are from, so we take into account all these nuances in our recordings," he also said.
"Users are then able to preview the various options before finalizing their video, allowing them to select the most accurate pronunciation," he noted.
And if none of the existing recordings work, a person can use a generic name such as "my friend," or — if purchased in advance of a certain date — submit a pronunciation to the team at Portable North Pole.
Another benefit of Portable North Pole is that it's available to use anywhere, even in the hospital.
"Parents can log into the app from anywhere to create personalized videos that relate to various scenarios for their kids, to bring normalcy to their lives in the midst of a disruptive hospital stay or treatment near the holidays," said Bérard.
"Additionally, by providing those videos and live call options, children are comforted and reminded that Santa still hears them and knows where they are even if they aren’t spending the holidays at home this year," he said.
"There are also video call options not specific to the holiday, offering words of encouragement," he said.
In 2012, Portable North Pole began the Children's Hospital Program. It works with more than 40 hospitals around the world by giving charitable donations.
"Whenever you purchase online a personalized call or a personalized video message from Santa, a portion of the sale is donated to the participating children's hospital closest to you," said Bérard.
Portable North Pole has donated over $500,000 to hospitals since the program began, which Bérard called the "true spirit of the holiday season."
Portable North Pole also has proven useful for families who are separated during Christmas due to military service.
For the last decade, Portable North Pole has partnered with NORAD, "providing exciting live updates on Santa’s preparation for Christmas and his travels on Christmas Eve."
"We’ve seen a fair amount of users who are in the armed forces use the app to connect with family and friends over the holidays," he said.
"Those stationed away from home are able to send personalized messages to loved ones and children, keeping the magic alive despite the physical distance. Similarly, families at home send messages to those who are deployed."
The app is available in the Apple App Store, Google Play and Amazon Appstore, said Bérard.