‘Santa Flight’ brings early Christmas cheer to Enoch Elementary students

Santa Claus greets Enoch Elementary School students during "Santa Flight" appearance, Cedar City, Utah, Dec. 14, 2018 | Photo by Jeff Richards, St. George News / Cedar City News

CEDAR CITY — Christmas Eve may still be more than a week away, but Santa Claus made an early stop in Cedar City Friday, as he helped deliver presents and supplies to hundreds of Enoch Elementary School students.

Santa Claus and helpers arrive to greet Enoch Elementary School students receiving gifts through “Santa Flight,” Cedar City, Utah, Dec. 14, 2018 | Photo by Jeff Richards, St. George News / Cedar City News

The exuberant youngsters gathered in a large hangar at the Cedar City Airport, where they waited to greet Santa, who arrived in the pilot’s seat of a red and white single-engine Cessna 182 Skylane, accompanied by Mrs. Claus and two elf helpers.

“What do you think of my sleigh?’ Santa asked the assembled students, joking that the airplane’s red nose made it like a “motorized Rudolf.”

Santa was one of 28 small-plane pilots who flew into Cedar City that morning from Salt Lake County and other parts of the state, said Steve Bollinger, the Utah wing leader of Angel Flight, a nonprofit organization that provides airplane rides to those in need.

All throughout the year, the organization’s volunteer pilots help transport patients to hospitals and clinics to receive medical treatment. Then, every December, the group conducts the large-scale project known as Santa Flight.

“We pick a Title I school each year in a rural part of Utah,” said Joanne Brattain, Angel Flight’s outreach coordinator. “They have to be close to an airport and have about 400 students.”

Enoch Elementary School students listen during “Santa Flight” presentation, Cedar City, Utah, Dec. 14, 2018 | Photo by Jeff Richards, St. George News / Cedar City News

Enoch Elementary, which has an enrollment of 560 students, was selected as this year’s Santa Flight recipient school.

This year marks the 18th year that Angel Flight has been carried out in Utah, Bollinger said, adding that an estimated 8,000 pounds of goods were transported, including school supplies, books, crayons, markers, blankets, coats, laptop computers and many other items. Additionally, about $7,500 in cash and checks was collected, and Bolliger presented the monetary donations to Enoch Elementary Principal Dan Ekker.

“It’s just amazing,” Ekker said gratefully as the students filed out of the hangar and headed toward the buses to be taken back to school. “This is really going to help a lot of our students. All of these donations are going to go right to the students and the school. They’re going to help them have a great Christmas and help them enjoy that day more when they wake up.”

Ekker addressed the students, staff and others in the crowd, reminding them of the spirit that prevails at Christmastime.

“This is a great time of year to help others,” Ekker told the students. “This is a perfect example of people who go out of their way to help those who are in need … this is about giving to others and showing your love.”

Boy Scouts involved in project listen during “Santa Flight” presentation to Enoch Elementary School students and staff, Cedar City, Utah, Dec. 14, 2018 | Photo by Jeff Richards, St. George News / Cedar City News

Cameron Derbidge of Kaysville was one of several Boy Scouts who helped collect donations from individuals and businesses in their communities as part of their Eagle Scout projects. The boys, who all worked on the collection drive for the past few months, said they were glad to be able to fly down with the Angel Flight pilots and help deliver the donations in person.

“It’s so great to come here and see so many smiles on everyone’s faces.” Derbidge said.

Several students in the crowd made large thank-you cards and signs for the Angel Flight participants.

“We’re so excited to be here,” third-grade teacher Lindsay Hightower said. “We’re so grateful to be part of this experience.”

The students were all smiles as they exited the hangar, giving plenty of hugs and high-fives to Santa and his helpers as they made their way back onto the buses.

A short time later, after the students and staff returned to school, teachers and volunteers were seen working in the school’s gymnasium to sort through the many boxes of donations and get them ready to distribute to each of the classrooms. 

Earlier at the airport, Bollinger expressed his thanks to all those involved in helping make the 18th annual Santa Flight a success.

“We really appreciate the pilots, the Scouts, the FBO (fixed base operator) and everybody else who made this possible,” he said.

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Email: jrichards@stgnews.com

Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2018, all rights reserved.

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1 Comment

  • Comment December 15, 2018 at 2:09 pm

    Very cute. Especially Santa’s elves there. I hope they’re over 18 so you people don’t start whining about me saying that, LOL. Now that I look again they both look well over 20, so I think we’re safe, LOL! I was just imagining the whining I’d have to encounter from you people. Too funny.

    Also, I can’t help but notice how white this group of children are, LOL. Reminds me of back when I was in school. The last elementary school I was at several years ago seemed like it was at least 50% hispanic.

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