Brings Joy To Seriously Ill Children
By Mike Mitchell
December 12, 2011 - The holiday season is a time for
sharing with family and friends. But, it's also a time
for sharing with those in need. Whether its food, winter
clothing, or money, many Americans choose this season
for giving to others.
Others choose to give something we all feel is in short
supply, time. And on Saturday, generous volunteers who
devote their time, energy, and creativity every year to
the United Airlines Fantasy Flight.
Fantasy flights are charity flights operated by a host
airline for locally disadvantaged and terminally ill
children to fly to a fictitious destination. The
destination is often the North Pole, the home of Santa
Claus' workshop. Employees and locals often including
firemen and police officers generally donate their own
time and labor to decorate either a gate area or a
dedicated terminal area.
Employees often don costumes including magicians and
Santa's helpers known as elves to entertain the
children. Various gifts and take-away bags often
accompany the Christmas and holiday seasons' theme.
Often, local companies and charitable organizations are
sponsors. Host airlines donate venues (gate areas),
aircraft, fuel, and fellow sponsors. The cost is
virtually always free.
Fantasy Flight, which began 20 years ago at the Washington
area's Dulles International Airport, participants in the United
Employee Volunteer Program help bring a little holiday magic to
seriously ill boys and girls from Children's Hospice
children and their families boarded a Boeing 777 from gate D-7
and took off for the brief flight to Santa's workshop.
The "workshop" an entire wing of the terminal was
completely decked out in holiday decorations and featured a host
of volunteers in costume, carolers from a local high school,
firefighters, fairy tale princesses, members of the military,
local sports mascots, lots of elves, and Rudolph the Red-Nosed
The boys and girls joined in different activities and ate delicious treats. U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood attended the function and brought M&Ms from the White House at the request of President Obama. But all of the hubbub of the workshop was nothing compared with the kids' wide-eyed excitement when the real guest of honor, Santa Claus, arrived. In true form, Santa's bag was full of gifts for everyone.
|The first Fantasy Flight occurred in London in 1991, when United Airlines donated a 727 to fly one hundred children from an orphanage to Lapland, Finland, for reindeer sleigh rides and a visit to ?Father Christmas Village?. The success of that first flight led the airline to gradually expand to more than forty six cities, providing children around the world with the experience of a lifetime.|
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