The most festive and cheerful group left last Saturday on a United Airlines flight. But for most people, this was a flight that they couldn’t purchase no matter what. That’s because it was reserved for a very special occasion.
More than 100 children, along with their loving families, arrived at Washington-Dulles Airport as part of the flight for the Children’s Hospice International Network. The organization holds an annual program known as “Fantasy Flights”. These special children and their families were there to take the trip of a lifetime during the holiday season. What better place to visit than the North Pole?
The families reported to the airline in the early morning hours to be greeted by holiday carolers, lots of bubbles, and tons of holiday excitement. Even the employees of United Airlines were decked out in their holiday best. The families enjoyed drinks and fun snacks before they boarded the plane, along with activities such as face painting.
When it was time for the families to board the plane, each family went with their personal attendant who escorted them to their seats. They enjoyed more bubbles and singing as they settled in for the flight. The entire plane was decked out in Christmas decorations.
Hundreds of volunteers work tirelessly to put together this amazing voyage. It all started 30 years ago with the first flight leaving from Washington-Dulles airport. Don Swanzy, a retired employee of United Airlines, was the brains behind the operation. Swanzy worked with Children’s Hospice International to put together flights for children with life-threatening illnesses. Swanzy also makes sure that all siblings are included during the day.
The flight to the “North Pole” only lasts for a short period of time. After all, it doesn’t take too long to get to Santa’s workshop when you have the big guy on your side and you use special rocket fuel! From there, the children and families are taken to “Santa’s Workshop”, normally known as Gate D29. The wonderful activities stretched further than even the adults could see. Local fire departments, military, and law enforcement were all on hand to pass out stuffed animals, provide special “North Pole Night Vision” lessons, and to help with lunch. Music filled the air while the kids worked on arts and crafts or had their faces painted.
Of course, it wouldn’t be a trip to the North Pole without stopping to see Santa. The children even got a special gift straight from Santa after sitting on his lap. When the festivities were over, the families were able to take home a personal picture of their child with the big guy himself.
It was great to see so many ill children able to enjoy a magical day and an incredible journey. The goal of the activity is to be able to give these kids and their families a chance to enjoy life and the holidays in a magical setting. Thanks to so many wonderful volunteers and generous donations, these families get to experience a day they will never forget.