OK, some of you may be thinking I’ve hit the Christmas Spirit a little too hard. Let me back up and explain…
Today I was fortunate enough to be a guest on Air Transat and Children’s Wish Foundation’s Flight with Santa Claus. Founded in 2004, this annual event runs simultaneously in Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal, and offers hundreds of young children suffering from life-threatening illnesses the chance to take to the skies in search of Santa Claus.
From the moment I arrived at the airport, I knew this would be a flight I would never forget. I could hear the energy and excitement the second I walked in the door, and it continued to grow until I finally reached the “North Pole Boarding Area”.
There was a DJ, there were Santacolouringg walls, there were real Disney princesses reading stories, there was a photo booth – it was a true winter wonderland.
Eventually, the group came together for a short presentation by Air Transat and Children’s Wish Foundation. You see, the purpose of this event – in addition to bringing joy to these wonderful kids – is to present Air Transat’s annual donation to Children’s Wish Foundation. This year, the company handed over a check for $80,000, bringing their overall donations to over $6 million since their partnership began in 2004!
After the check was presented, it was time for the kids to go find Santa! Boarding served as a reminder of what this event was truly all about – bringing joy to those that need it most. Many of these children are bravely battling diseases that limit their ability to walk, and as such a dozen or so had to be helped down the jet bridge with wheelchairs and strollers. While this could have been a heartbreaking moment, it became one of the many incredible lessons we adults were taught today. Even if they had to be helped down the jet bridge, each one of these kids had the world’s biggest smile plastered across their face. They weren’t thinking about their illness or feeling sorry for themselves – they were cherishing the experience and full of joy at the thought of finding Santa!
These kids reminded all of us what it means to be grateful for what you have, and to count your blessings no matter what hardships you are facing.
With boarding complete, the fun of the pre-flight festivities continued, and the plane was buzzing with excitement. The pilots instructed the kids that a trip to find Santa requires an extra boost of energy for takeoff, and so everyone was encouraged to stomp their feet and make lots of noise in order to get the plane up into the sky. And with that, we were down the runway and in search of that Jolly Ol’ Man from the North.
After the children enjoyed more snacks and treats, the pilots came on the PA to make a special announcement. To the left of the plane, just over a snow-capped mountain, there was a slight glimmer of red. Could it be? Yes, it was! It was Santa himself!! And he was flying his sleigh up to greet us.
With a thud, Santa’s sleigh landed on top of the plane, and soon he emerged inside the cabin for all to see. The kids went nuts! Santa proceeded to spend the better part of an hour walking the aisles, taking photos, and passing out stockings to each and every child on board. And after much pleading, the kids even convinced the pilots to let Santa stay on board and fly back to Vancouver with us!
Once we returned, the children said their goodbyes to Santa, and he was on his way back to the North Pole to prepare for Christmas. With Santa gone, the kids began filtering out with their parents to begin their own journeys home. And just like that, this magic afternoon came to a close.
It’s hard to fully articulate my feelings about the magic of what transpired today. As a mother who is blessed to have healthy children, I cannot begin to express how grateful I am. To see what these families have to endure is heartbreaking. Yet, as I mentioned earlier, you would never know it by talking with these kids. This was the most animated, joy-filled group of children I have ever seen. They were having so much fun and were so appreciative to have this opportunity to meet Santa – you would never know that they have already endured more trauma and hardship than most endure in a lifetime.
It was an incredible lesson about positive attitude, perseverance, and gratitude…and it was coming from kids as young as 3 and 4!
Today was also filled with lessons about using your power and influence to do good things. I can’t begin to fathom the time, energy, and money Air Transat invests in this event. And not just once, but every year for 14 years straight – in 3 different cities to boot! It’s a massive undertaking. Yet they do it every single year. And not only do they do it, but they do it right. They show up. They put in the effort. They deliver on a promise…to bring joy to kids who have been tragically robbed of so much, so young.
Most companies wouldn’t show up the way Air Transat does. And having experienced the magic of the Flight with Santa Claus first hand, I want to thank them from the bottom of my heart. What I witnessed today was something so special and so magical, and I will truly never forget it.
I think the most important lesson I took from today was thinking about what I can do in my own life to mirror the magic of this event. Who can I help? Who can I show up for? We might not all have the same access to people or power or money that Air Transat does, but we all possess the same ability to show up for a group of people that need it most.
I hope all of you are able to show up and share some of your own magic with those in need this holiday season. For when we all do that, the world is a much better place!
For more information on the Children’s Wish Foundation, please visit their website at http://www.childrenswish.ca/. And if you can find it in your heart this holiday season, I strongly encourage you to donate while you’re there. I can tell you first hand that this organization goes above and beyond to bring joy and hope to those that need it most!