The holiday magic was in the air as 60 children enjoyed the flight of a lifetime. They flew from Spokane, Washington, to the North Pole, and TSA was there to help them on their way.
Alaska Airlines teamed up with the nonprofit Spokane Fantasy Flight to make travel to the North Pole a reality for underprivileged children in Spokane and Coeur d’Alene. TSA welcomed and screened all the kids, support personnel and some of Santa’s elves, who made it an unforgettable experience.
For 25 years, Spokane Fantasy Flight has created the North Pole experience for the underserved, and TSA officers at Spokane International Airport (GEG) decorated the checkpoint and wore their holiday gear – hats, lights and festive ties.
During the event, the elves paraded around the airport grounds and led a holiday song and dance party near GEG’s C Checkpoint before the children boarded their short flight. TSA officers wished all the travelers a “Merry Christmas,” bringing more smiles to the kids’ faces.
TSA Officer Tammy Dodson reprised her role as volunteer elf Twizzle for the fourth straight year.
“It is about bringing the magic of Christmas to underprivileged children who need a day filled with fairy tales, joy, hope and love,” said Dodson. “This allows them to forget the worries of their everyday lives.”
Dodson and the other volunteer elves met the kids in the airport lobby, each elf paired with a child.
“As we went through the security checkpoint, our hands were tested for ‘magic dust,’” she described. “Once we boarded the plane, it taxied and actually took off for a 30- to 45-minute flight before arriving at the North Pole. We off loaded and headed into the North Pole with red carpet treatment surrounded by cheering elves.”
During the holiday celebration, the children met Santa, Mrs. Claus and some of their reindeer, enjoyed a big party with the elves and experienced the joy of Christmas they richly deserve. They were lavished with toys, coats, boots, mittens, blankets and more, each going home with over $200 in gifts.
“The holiday spirit was alive during the Fantasy Flight,” Lead TSA Officer Matthew Dockter proclaimed. “I think it’s a great thing Spokane does and that TSA is able to partner with. It’s a great opportunity for the children to get the experience, the gifts, and I think a lot of our officers and airline personnel look forward to it.”
Officer Dave Morley, nationally deployed to GEG from Southwest Florida International Airport, called it an “uplifting” experience.
“It was amazing how the local community and all the businesses around assisted in giving these children an experience they will never forget,” Morley said. “It was a positive experience for all of us. We would gladly volunteer to do this again without pay!”
Supervisory TSA Officer Nelson Forero from Dallas-Fort Worth, who was also on national deployment to GEG, agreed with Morley, saying, “Most of my team said they would have worked for free just to be there to see the kids. I found it to be a pretty incredible thing the community does for these children. I hope it continues for a long time.”
“This truly is a heartwarming event,” added Supervisory TSA Manager Erik Hoxie, who joined his team in helping the children and their elves through the checkpoint. “It’s a special thing that shows the kindness, spirit and love of Spokane. I have participated in about 14 of the celebrations over the years, and it always lifts my heart and brings a smile to my life.”
By Don Wagner, TSA Strategic Communications & Public Affairs