CEDAR CITY — Approximately 560 students at Fiddler’s Canyon Elementary school received an early visit from Santa Claus on Thursday, courtesy of Angel Flight West.
Earlier that morning, 13 planes piloted by volunteers had landed at Sphere One Aviation FBO terminal at Cedar Regional Airport. Each aircraft was loaded with donations that had been collected on behalf of the schoolchildren.
At the airport, members of the Utah Army National Guard’s “Triple Deuce” (2nd Battalion 222nd Field Artillery) regiment helped the pilots unload the donated items from the planes, load them into vehicles and deliver them across town to the school.
Meanwhile, over at Fiddler’s Canyon Elementary, Santa and Mrs. Claus dropped in for a personal visit, landing on the school’s east lawn in an SUU Aviation helicopter as throngs of excited children waved and cheered.
“It was wonderful,” Principal Michelle Hall later wrote in a thank-you email. “I have received phone calls all night from parents who were so excited. The kids and teachers haven’t stopped talking about it. I don’t even know where to begin to thank you!”
The event had originally been scheduled for Friday but was moved up one day because of the weekend’s weather forecast, said Joanne Brattain, outreach coordinator for Angel Flight West.
“On Wednesday, we realized that the weather in Salt Lake City (where the pilots are) was going to be bad Friday as well as next week, so Thursday was our only window,” Brattain said.
Steve Bollinger, wing leader of the Angel Flight West Utah Wing, then contacted all the pilots to see who could switch days, while Brattain worked with the school, PTA, Utah National Guard, Sphere One FBO and SUU Aviation.
“Everyone was able to make the switch,” she said.
Since the first Santa Flight in 2000, the members of the Angel Flight West Utah Wing have worked with their local communities to gather needed supplies, winter clothes, books and toys and deliver them to Title 1 schools in rural communities throughout Utah.
This marks the fourth year Santa Flight has helped an Iron County school.
In addition to the initial 13 planeloads, Brattain said another six to eight planes filled with donations are expected to fly down to Cedar City between Saturday and Tuesday, weather permitting, to add to the final total.
Additionally, donations totaling more than $10,000 in cash and checks were also raised, she said.
In a news release about the Santa Flight event, Bollinger said, “We are very grateful for the generosity of our pilots and the community groups who have raised money and gathered donations so that even during this pandemic, we can bring some holiday cheer to these kids.”
As with every Angel Flight mission, the pilots donate their time, talent, airplanes, fuel and operating expenses.
Founded in 1983, Angel Flight West is a nonprofit, volunteer-driven organization that arranges free, nonemergency air travel for children and adults with serious medical conditions and other compelling needs. The Utah Wing has 92 member pilots and flies 150-plus missions a year within Utah and throughout the Intermountain West.
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