Thursday, December 17, 2009

Wish comes true for kids on flight to North Pole

isaac Evans has it all: A stocking and a visit from Santa in Richmond aboard the Children's Wish Foundation annual flight to the North Pole in search of Santa on Dec. 16.

Photograph by: Wayne Leidenfrost, The Province

By Lena Sin, The Province, British Columbia, Canada

“Welcome to Flight 960 to the North Pole,” Capt. Pierre Bergeron announced over the intercom.

“Yeah kids, you heard me right, we’re goin’ to the North Pole!”

Buckled up and ready for takeoff, the 47 “wish kids” and their families erupted in deafening screams and applause as the Air Transat flight started to taxi down the runway.

The festive, 90-minute flight was sponsored by Air Transat and organized by the Children’s Wish Foundation, which grants wishes to children with life-threatening illnesses.

Two-year-old Aiden Phillips was among the lucky kids who left Vancouver International Airport at noon aboard the Flight in Search of Santa on Wednesday.

After watching him undergo a liver transplant at the age of six months and spend 20 days in intensive care last year after a severe allergic reaction to his medication, his mother, Lonnie Phillips, was relieved to be spending time with her family away from the hospital.

“We persevered and made it through, and now finally he’s growing and talking,” she said. “It’s really nice to be all together and do something special.

“It’s just really exciting to see the glow on their faces.”

After searching for Santa to no avail, the kids started to feel restless and began chanting, “We want Santa! We want Santa!”

Their wish was granted when Santa Claus and Mrs. Claus burst into the aisles, followed by a gaggle of elves who helped hand out gifts.

Three-year-old Aliza Hassan’s eyes widened as she was handed a stocking full of stickers, toys and sweets.

“I have a ring pop!” she squealed joyously, as she began opening her gifts.

Aliza received a bone-marrow transplant last year after being diagnosed with a blood disorder, explained her father, Khwaja Hassan.

“It’s been very, very tough, lots of time in the hospital,” he said. “But she’s having great fun now.”

This is the fourth straight year that Air Transat has sponsored the Flight in Search of Santa. In addition, they presented the Children’s Wish Foundation with a check for $850,000 on Wednesday.

“It’s amazing. Some of these kids have never been on a plane before, so to see them up in the sky to find Santa is pretty incredible,” said Rod Ramage, Air Transat’s regional manager for Western Canada.

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