KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The spirit of Christmas was a little stronger after an important flight out of KCI. United's Fantasy Flight took kids dealing with disabilities and illnesses to the North Pole.
Travelers checked in to a usually unpopular travel destination at the United counter, but one they were all excited to head to. This year the airline teamed up with Lenexa based non-profit Shadow Buddies for the flight. The first time in 18 years the fantasy flight arrived back at KCI. Shadow Buddies provides educational teaching dolls to children based on their illness or disability.
"They donate the pilots, they donate the fuel, they donate the plane, so it's truly a labor of love," Shadow Buddies founder and executive director, Marty Postlethwait said. "Just kind of release the stress of what families go through who have to deal with long term illnesses."
10-year-old Dany Droge is from Harrisonville, Missouri, and lives with sickle cell disease. It causes her pain and fatigue on a daily basis. Her mother, Jamie Droge, says it means there are some things she can't do, but for the most part she's a regular kid.
"This is something that we probably wouldn't do otherwise so, it's a gift," Droge said. "We're so very thankful for the people who gave up their day, and their time, and their resources to be able to do this."
It's Dany's second time on a plane. The first time is when she flew home to meet her family the day she was adopted.
"She flew once when she came home from Haiti, and we haven't gotten to fly again, so she was very excited about that - that she'd get to fly today," Droge said.
Dany got the red and green carpet treatment onto the holiday themed plane. On board the flight attendants were dressed as elves. Streamers and snowflakes dangled from the normally bare ceilings. Carols came over the intercom, and snowball fights filled the aisles. Dany sat in the window seat and exclaimed how beautiful it was with joy when she saw the plane leave the ground. Before the plane landed flight attendants lowered the shades and told the kids to close their eyes and repeat 'I believe in Christmas magic.'
When she and the other kids deplaned they walked into a winter wonderland of a terminal filled with hundreds of people. Family and friends waiting to cheer them on. Cookie decorating, stuffed animals, princesses, and even Santa accompanied by his own secret service.
"We just want to give them a day of happiness and feel like it's a holiday, and the spirit of Christmas," Postlethwait said. "The magic of Santa."