The Hollings Cancer Center reversed course today on its decision to fire a Santa volunteer due to the hospital's state affiliation.

The about-face follows what a Hollings spokeswoman called "passionate response" from the public to a report on Santa's dismissal in today's edition of The Post and Courier.

"We've received a number of strong responses to the Santa story, and it prompted another discussion on our end," Hollings spokeswoman Vicky Agnew said in a statement. "As a result, we've decided to allow a Santa presence this year."

For each of the past two years, hospital volunteer Frank Cloyes spent one day as St. Nick, spreading good cheer and snacks to patients sitting through chemotherapy treatments. The 67-year-old James Island resident, a retired insurance executive, paid for his own costume rental.

On Tuesday morning, a volunteer coordinator told Cloyes his services no longer were needed. Hollings officials decided 'not to have a Santa presence' because the hospital is state-affiliated. Hollings is a part of the Medical University of South Carolina.

Cloyes could not be reached Wednesday afternoon.

In a statement Wednesday, Hollings spokeswoman Agnew said: "When we discussed not having a Santa presence this year, we were actually responding to previous complaints from patients with other holiday beliefs who felt excluded."

Hospital officials based their decisions on respecting "the different cultures and beliefs of the patients we care for," Agnew said in the statement. Santa and other holiday traditions now will be allowed "because we recognize the emotional benefit to patients," she said.