In dedication and sponsorship of Dream Come True since 1993
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The Dream Come True "North Pole Express Flight 2012"
- (CHRIS POST / SPECIAL TO THE MORNING CALL / December 22, 2012)
After landing at the North Pole, children were greeted by Santa and Mrs. Claus standing on top of an airport fire truck. Dream Come True Foundation held the "North Pole Express Flight 2012" transporting seriously, chronically, or terminally ill children to the North Pole to visit Santa Claus Saturday, December 22nd, 2012 at Lehigh Valley International Airport in Allentown. The flight, sponsored by Allegiant Airlines, circled the Lehigh Valley for 30 minutes and landed at a hangar on airport property decorated like the North Pole where the children were greeted by Santa and Mrs. Claus.
"No peeking," an adult warned. But, how could they not? Every child wants to see what Santa Claus' house looks like and so more fun-filled peeking continued on what children and adults thought would be a long trip aboard Dream Come True's North Pole Express Flight 2012. But then the captain let his passengers in on a secret. He was going to fly fast. Real fast."Here we go, everyone ready?" The engines kicked into overdrive as the plane surpassed warp speed and locked into the swiftness of reindeer, making what should have been a roughly nine and a half-hour flight lasted 22 minutes.
When they landed, there were Santa and Mrs. Claus, waving greetings to about 40 children, like 7-year-old Lillian Hercik, who is beating back leukemia, and 12-year-old Stefan Quinones, whose sight is being stolen by a tumor. "It was awesome, it was awesome," Stefan said. "It was going super fast; you could feel it. It felt like a roller coaster."
"All the people here volunteering their time for our kids," said Jeff Hall of Lehighton, whose epileptic and autistic 8-year-old son, Brandon, was going on his first flight. "It's got to cost thousands and thousands of dollars."
"It's amazing," said Christina Steirer of Nazareth, whose 5-year-old daughter, Gianna, had her last leukemia treatment in January 2011. "It's just a great day to relax for the kids to have fun and be kids." But not all of the children had the chance.
"We had two die yesterday and 13 die this year," said Rayann Vasko of Bethlehem Township, Dream Come True's executive director. "It's not been a good year." But Vasko never let her internal despair show. She wore the Christmas spirit as well as an elf costume. On the plane, she was the loudest passenger. "Two, four, six, eight, who do we appreciate?" Vasko cheered. "Santa, Santa," little voices responded. When the plane touched down, children met their parents, who had taken another form of ludicrously fast transportation to the enchanted site where Santa and Mrs. Claus provided lunch and laps.
Lillian, of Bethlehem Township, planned to ask Santa for a mosaic kit to make art. Jack Knudson, 9, of Emmaus, who had a brain tumor, was hoping to ask for Playmobile sets. KaitlynMericle, 11, of North Whitehall Township, who has cerebral palsy, said she wanted Lego Friends. Stefan, however, wasn't sure what to ask for. The Allentown boy said he has all he needs: family.
"My dad, my mom, my brother mean the world to me," Stefan said. "They are just all I need."
It felt like love, too. It always does when LVIA, an airline and dozens of other volunteers host the annual trip with the local nonprofit Dream Come True, whose mission is to finance trips, toys, scholarships and celebrity visits for chronically or terminally ill children. "It enlightens the spirit," said Martin Rosario of Bethlehem, whose 9-year-old daughter Hannah had a tumor removed from near an eye. "The focus is mainly on the kids." Families arrived at the main terminal at 7:30 a.m. to the sound of the Liberty High School Grenadier Band's bagpipe and drum corps and the sight of costumed cartoon characters and team mascots. After checking in and going through security, children picked up gifts from nine reindeer stations, staffed by student council members from St. Anne's in Bethlehem and other schools. Then they walked past the Parkland High School Chorale singing Christmas carols and into the waiting area of Terminal 11, where Radio Disney blasted pop tunes. By Steve Esack, Of The Morning Call "GOD BLESS EACH AND EVERY CHILD"
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