Youngsters Fly to Santa’s Wonderland Via Sky Harbor
For most youngsters, the thought of flying to the North Pole to visit Santa Claus is just a fabulous fantasy, a delightful, unattainable dream. But on Friday, Dec. 4, this fantasy became a reality for some 140 homeless children from Children First/Pappas Elementary School in Phoenix.
As part of United Airlines’ 2009 Fantasy Flight – A Trip to Santa’s Wonderland at PHX Sky Harbor International Airport, the participating kindergarten and first grade students checked in and boarded a United aircraft dubbed Santa One, early Friday morning. The youngsters, most flying for the first time, enjoyed a brief flight before landing again at Sky Harbor’s Terminal 2.
Santa and Mrs. Claus greeted the youngsters as they deplaned and entered the Winter Wonderland where they were treated to a festive holiday party that included food, drinks, games and face painting. Each child also visited with Santa and received a gift courtesy of the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve Toys for Tots program.
The Fantasy Flight event, sponsored by United in a variety of domestic and international cities, is in its 16th year in Phoenix, the longest running program. “Every city does their event differently. In Phoenix we not only focus on the fun, but on the educational aspect as well,” explained Capt. Robert Howard “Bob” Miller, United pilot involved in the program since its inception and often the Fantasy Flight pilot.
“The kids earn their way onto the flight based on their academic achievements,” Miller explained. “We want them to have fun but we also focus on giving them the opportunity to interact with a variety of positive role models—pilots, flight attendants, other airline staff, police officers, fire fighters, college students and athletes. We want them to realize that they can be anything they want to be.
Among Santa’s distinguished helpers at the event ensuring that the youngsters made the most of their time at the North Pole were: United Airlines staff and volunteers; Sky Harbor’s Volunteer Navigators and other Aviation staff; members of the Phoenix Police Department including the K-9 and Mounted Police units; Phoenix Fire Department; Arizona State University’s mascot Sparky and members of ASU’s baseball, softball, football, swimming, track and gymnastics teams and the ASU Spirit Squad.