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bradl
Dec 15, 2008, 01:30 PM
Nice warm and fuzzy for everyone, especially with all the **** that is going on in the world today. Enjoy.

Link (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/12/13/AR2008121301940.html)


Fantasy Flight at Dulles Delivers Holiday Magic
Sick Children and Their Families Visit Santa

By Christopher Twarowski
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, December 14, 2008; C07

Andrew Luckabaugh could hardly contain himself. The Fairfax County 9-year-old was aboard a Boeing 777 at Dulles International Airport, bound for the North Pole. Soon, he would be meeting Santa Claus and telling the big guy what he wants for Christmas this year.

"A Wii," Luckabaugh said with a smile yesterday, referring to the video game system.

Luckabaugh, who is in remission from Hodgkin's disease, was one of about 150 children who headed to the North Pole yesterday, along with their families, as part of United Airlines' annual Fantasy Flight. The program, started in 1990, takes children with life-threatening conditions and terminal illnesses from hospitals and hospices across the region on a make-believe flight to visit Santa on his home turf. United employees, along with other sponsors, volunteer time and services each year to make it an extra special Christmas for such children.

"It was an emotional day," said Chazz Banks, manager of international operations for United Airlines and this year's Fantasy Flight chair. "Just to see the smiles on the faces of the children who are suffering, the parents -- we give them a day off."

The interior of the plane was decorated with tinsel, red ribbons, wreaths and Christmas ornaments. Flight attendants wore bells and blew cinnamon-scented bubbles. Some wore antlers. Others wore elf ears and jester hats. There were candy canes for everyone.

For Linda Cassell, 38, of Purcellville, the flight was a way to honor her son, Christopher, who died of a metabolic brain disorder in August, a week after his first birthday. She hoped to inspire others who might be going through similar hardships. She and her husband brought their daughter, Allyson, 4, on the trip.

"I'm just blown away by the happiness that surrounds these kids and their families . . . for what they have to go through," she said.

An announcement came over the intercom: "Ladies and gentlemen . . . we are United Sleigh Ride One with nonstop service to the North Pole."

The aircraft shook as it sped down the runway. Just as the plane was about to lift off, its engines were put in reverse and the intercom announced that the plane had reached its destination. Passengers erupted with applause and cheers. They disembarked to several gates that had been transformed into a winter wonderland: There were Christmas trees, arts and crafts, face painting, music and food. Clowns and other characters, including SpongeBob SquarePants and Ronald McDonald, greeted the youngsters and posed for photos.

And then came the big guy himself, Santa, with Mrs. Claus. They handed out presents to the children and their siblings based on the kids' wish lists. Children's Hospice International, an Alexandria-based nonprofit organization that partnered with United on the flight, had forwarded the lists to Santa.

Four-year-old Caleb Hawbaker of Hancock, Md., danced in circles, wrapping his arms around the legs of Big Bird while his mother, Julie, 39, watched over him, smiling. Caleb, who was diagnosed with cancer in May, had undergone chemotherapy the night before, which left him feeling sick and experiencing pain in his legs.

"I was able to tell him, 'You have chemotherapy today, but tomorrow we're going to the North Pole,' " his mother said. "It's been really hard, but with stuff like this it makes it better. . . . This helps him forget about it."

Markie Noah, 5, of Fargo, N.D., was also dancing. His father, Mark, laughed hard as he watched. The two had come into town a week ago with Markie's sister, Mary, 7, for Markie's biannual trip to the National Institutes of Health and the Kennedy Krieger Institute for treatment. Markie has a rare genetic disorder, Smith-Lemli-Opitz syndrome, of which there are only 500 known cases in the United States, his father said.

"This is a very, very special event," Mark Noah said. "He's very keen about flying. Combining flying with Santa Claus -- you can't ask for anything more."

"It just tugs at your heart," said Christine Smith, the head flight attendant, wearing bell earrings and a pair of furry antlers. Smith has volunteered on Fantasy Flights for 18 years.

"To me, this is Christmas," she said.


BL.

aethelbert
Dec 15, 2008, 02:17 PM
Not quite the fastest; Continental does this without having to get to the runway.

Still a nice idea, though. I'm glad to see that they continue to do these things.

snberk103
Dec 15, 2008, 04:35 PM
Also, for those wee little ones who don't want/can't do a plane to the North Pole....

They can write a letter to Santa Claus at
SANTA CLAUS
NORTH POLE
H0H 0H0
CANADA

From the Canadian Post Office press release:

"...Santa’s North Pole Post Office has answered more than 16 million letters since Canada Post’s national annual letter-writing program was established in 1982. More than 11,000 current or retired Canada Post employees (known affectionately as postal elves) will volunteer their time to help Santa respond to truckloads of letters in the language in which they are received – 26 languages last year, including Braille.
Last year, Canada Post elves replied to more than 1.2 million letters and 45,000 emails! The 2006 program was awarded the Guinness World Record for most letters delivered to Santa during a holiday season (stay tuned for news of a repeat award!)...."

http://www.canadapost.ca/AboutUs/news/pr/archive-e.asp?prid=1319

Happy Holidays to all....

rdowns
Dec 15, 2008, 04:50 PM
Great story. It brings a tear to my eye every year. :)

alexlovesmacs
Dec 15, 2008, 11:34 PM
This warmed my heart.

Rodimus Prime
Dec 16, 2008, 07:12 AM
Not quite the fastest; Continental does this without having to get to the runway.

Still a nice idea, though. I'm glad to see that they continue to do these things.

I agree because that is not cheap for the airlines to do.

Personally I like United way of doing it over Continental just because it makes it seem more real.

Either way both are a great idea and I agree it is nice to see them continue even when times are hard for the airlines and everyone else.

Kamera RAWr
Dec 16, 2008, 12:29 PM
Thanks for posting the story. I thought I had heard about something like this awhile back. Its a great story to start the day :D

bradl
Dec 16, 2008, 01:19 PM
Personally, I thought it would be better if they did one circuit in the pattern at IAD, then landed and taxied to the gate. The way they did it with going down the runway, then applying the reverse thrusters would have made the brakes hot. But at least one turn in the pattern would have given them the sense that they had taken off to the North Pole..

BL.

dmr727
Dec 16, 2008, 04:17 PM
Personally, I thought it would be better if they did one circuit in the pattern at IAD, then landed and taxied to the gate. The way they did it with going down the runway, then applying the reverse thrusters would have made the brakes hot.

Stopping the plane after landing tends to make the brakes hot too. ;)

But yeah, it would have been cool for them to take it around the patch once. However I understand - it *does* cost quite a bit more money. It's cool that they're doing this at all.

snberk103
Dec 16, 2008, 05:22 PM
And takeoff and landings are two most dangerous parts of a flight. This is one load of passengers you take no chances with!

Besides, if you do something really exciting in the cabin to distract the kids they'll never notice that the plane never left the ground. Remember, these are same minds who accept that Santa Claus can go around the world in a single night.

drichards
Dec 16, 2008, 05:25 PM
What a good story. :) I'm going to pass it along.

rdowns
Dec 16, 2008, 05:30 PM
Remember, these are same minds who accept that Santa Claus can go around the world in a single night.

Whoa, he doesn't?

http://enquata.com/mr-images/baby.jpg

snberk103
Dec 16, 2008, 08:03 PM
Yes ... yes... Of course he does.... how else do all those presents get delivered....:D Now be good.... there are only 9 more sleeps 'til the jolly guy arrives.

Rodimus Prime
Dec 17, 2008, 07:10 AM
And takeoff and landings are two most dangerous parts of a flight. This is one load of passengers you take no chances with!

Besides, if you do something really exciting in the cabin to distract the kids they'll never notice that the plane never left the ground. Remember, these are same minds who accept that Santa Claus can go around the world in a single night.

you forgot another key element. It not the danager or take off and landing but the danger to the kids dealing with the pressure change. Remember there are quite a few people who not allowed to fly because of the fact they can not handle pressure change and even if they where just taking off and landing they still go a few thousand feet in the air.

iJohnHenry
Dec 17, 2008, 08:26 AM
Remember, these are same minds who accept that Santa Claus can go around the world in a single night.

Who is this person???

Do they not know of Teh Force™.

For shame. :p

(I bet the kids love the roar of the engines and the vibration of the jet taxiing down the runway.) :D