By Brian Tague
The Friends of Flying Santa are happy to report that our December 2000 flights to New England's lighthouses went extremely well. Another year of preparations involving fund-raising events, recruiting sponsors and our many other responsibilities were a success. We were once again very fortunate to receive a large number of toys from the Lego Corporation of Enfield, Connecticut. Their generous donations over the past few years have been greatly appreciated by those of us involved in the flight preparations as well as the children that received them. We are also grateful for a last minute donation of stuffed toys for the younger children. This surprise contribution came from Deanna Blackburn who works for a home-based toy distribution company headquartered in California. The voluminous task of wrapping all these items fell to a great crew of volunteer "wrappers" who turned out on November 30th at the Point Allerton Coast Guard Station in Hull. The resident Coast Guard crew pitched in as well to assist us. Over the years, this has become a tradition at the station and the efforts of all involved are much appreciated by the Friends.
Flight 1- Newburyport to Cape Cod Canal
We suffered a minor setback when our helicopter sponsor for the Boston area flight, WCVB TV-5, informed us that they would not be able to participate this year due to budget constraints. Channel 5 has been a major supporter of Flying Santa for more than 10 years and we will always be grateful for their role in making our past flights so successful. Unfortunately, we were unable to find another sponsor for the flight so it was necessary for us to foot the bill for that day's flight in addition to our usual charter costs for the Cape to New York trip. Thanks to the success of our fundraising efforts last year (and our generous contributors!), we did have the funds available to cover this additional expense. We will be working hard this year to recoup those funds and continue to be prepared for the unexpected "budget busters". We took off for the Massachusetts Bay flights on Saturday, December 9th with our Santa, USCG CWO David Waldrip and our always-accommodating pilot, Dale Hardy of Wiggins Airways. As always, Dave did an outstanding job as Santa. Stops were made at Newburyport, Annisquam Harbor and Eastern Point Light along the North Shore. At Boston Light, on behalf of the Friends, he presented the light- keepers a gift certificate to a local supermarket. The keepers scheduled for duty Christmas Day would use this to purchase all the necessities for making a festive Christmas dinner on the isolated island. Santa's next stop was Point Allerton and its hard working crew of "wrappers", joined by their delighted families. Moving south to Scituate Light, Santa encountered a bride and groom among the festive crowd. The newlywed couple wanted a picture with Santa, who willingly obliged. He was rewarded with the chance to kiss the bride, which did not go unnoticed by Mrs. Claus, (Dave's wife Diane) who was among the crowd of onlookers. Diane graciously accepted this as one of Santa's obligatory responsibilities. At this point in the flight, Dave was joined by his sons Greg and Shaun, who assisted him with the last two stops of the day at Station Cape Cod Canal and Plymouth Light.
Flight 2 - Cape Cod to New York
On Sunday, December 10th we made our flight to lighthouses on Cape Cod and the Islands, as well as the shores of Rhode Island, Connecticut, and Long Island, New York. The crew for this trip included our veteran Flying Santa, George Morgan, "Elf" Diane Waldrip, photographer Brian Tague and pilot, Dale Hardy. Diane did a wonderful job of assisting George with his distribution duties. The Waldrip family has fallen quite easily into their Flying Santa roles and we appreciate their continued dedication to the program. There was great weather for the bulk of the day's trip, with just a bit of cloud cover rolling in at the end of the day. From our first take-off to our final landing, it takes almost 11 hours to complete all our stops. Departing from Norwood Airport we headed off to Cape Cod Light, Chatham, Brant Point and West Chop Light before hitting one of our biggest stops of the route, Nobska Point. Here we were greeted by Capt. Russ Webster, Commander of Group Woods Hole. With the Captain's tour finishing up next summer, this was the Webster family's last Christmas at the light. They have generously kept up the tradition of hosting the base's Coast Guard crews and their families during Santa's visit to the light. We wish them well for their next tour of duty.
In the afternoon we tackled the western part of our route. Enjoying stops at Warwick, Castle Hill, Point Judith and Montauk Light. Throughout the six states that we visited, we had plenty of newspaper and TV coverage. The extra exposure always helps in introducing our program to many new friends. A crew from Connecticut's Hartford Courant newspaper joined us for our stops at Lynde Point and Stratford Point Lights. At our final stop of the day, Eaton's Neck Light, we encountered the Milmoe family for the ninth time in as many years. Since 1992, their 10-year-old son Ryan has been present for every Flying Santa visit to the light at Northport, New York. Joined for the past few years by his sister, Megan, we look forward to seeing Ryan and his family across the Sound in Connecticut where they will transfer to later this year.
The following Saturday, December 16th,
our friends at Fisher Scientific International once again assisted
us with our flight to northern New England. They provided us
with their Agusta 109 helicopter and pilots Arthur Godjikian
and LaRay Todd. With these good humored and well-experienced
pilots at the controls, George and Brian departed from Pease
International Airport in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. This was
expected to be the last day of the flights but with a fast moving
weather front making its way in, the possibility of rescheduling
the afternoon stops loomed close. We had great receptions from
the crews at Portsmouth Harbor, Goat Island and from the site
of our largest crowd of the year, Portland Head. At Burnt Island
Light, we were greeted by a hearty crowd that had been ferried
out from the mainland. George took part in what has become an
annual tradition for Flying Santa - hoisting a massive wreath
up the side of the lighthouse tower. Our next stop at Pemaquid
Point went well, but when we arrived at Marshall Point we knew
that the threatening weather would prevent us from going any
further. The phone calls went out with the disappointing news
along with the promise that we would return the following Monday
to complete the run.
We continued on to stops at Fort Point and Dice Head. At Bass Harbor Head, we met an older couple that by chance happened to be driving by the field as we were landing. As it turned out, the couple, Dolly and Harold Cummings, had been keepers at Maine's Great Duck Island Light in the 1950's and had been visited by Edward Rowe Snow on a few of his Christmas flights. They were very excited to see the latest Flying Santa and to know that the tradition was still being carried on. They could not resist having their picture taken with Santa and his helicopter. This chance encounter made their holiday and we enjoyed getting acquainted with one of the program's past recipients.
Our last stop of the day -and the year - was up to USCG Station Jonesport. This was a new stop for us and its location, about 35 miles shy of the Canadian border, made it our most remote. The crew and families of this isolated outpost had especially looked forward to Santa's visit. The station was well decorated for the festivities and we were given an extremely enthusiastic reception from everyone present. It had been a tough week for the station. They were involved in the search and recovery of three local fishermen who had drowned just a few days earlier. A severe windstorm the day before our arrival had done considerable damage to the station's dock and had also left many of the crew's nearby homes without power and heat. The visit of the Flying Santa was a more than welcome distraction. It was fitting that this was our last stop. It brought home how much the efforts of the Friends of Flying Santa are appreciated and enjoyed by the Coast Guard families. Especially, when the responsibilities of the job and the sometimes-harsh locations make for a tough stretch. As always, none of our success would have been possible without the support of our many hard working volunteers, loyal sponsors and generous contributors. We sincerely thank you!
The Friends' photographer and board member, Brian Tague, took over 500 photographs during this year's flights. He is now in the process of preparing these for publication on our website. They will be placed in a special gallery section that will be indexed by each lighthouse that we visited. Our webmaster, Penny Morgan, hopes to have these posted within the next month. So stay tuned to the website for this in-depth photo essay of the 2000 Flying Santa flights. This will be the first time that we have been able to display the complete collection of a year's flights to such a large audience. We hope you will enjoy them.
By George Morgan
|In 1997, I received a note from a young lady named Debra Dietrich. She wrote that she lived in a small town called Dewy, Arizona and had read about the Flying Santa program in Lighthouse Digest. She was interested in learning more about the Santa flights and asked me to please send her additional information. This was the start of our ongoing friendship. Debra started to receive our newsletters and decided to assist us by hand-making a few special dolls for the toddlers on our lighthouse runs. The small gifts were a godsend for us. Each year, the Friends are faced with the task of finding special gifts for the three to four dozen babies and toddlers that are on our Christmas gift list. These lovingly crafted gifts have filled this special need. In 1999, Debra sent us 50 of her stuffed dolls and teddy bears. As it turned out, we needed every one of them. Debra was very busy again this year. She sent us 60 more of her creations, each in its own decorated Christmas stocking. We all celebrate Christmas in our own special way. For Debra this is the way she spreads the joy of the holiday. Using her talents to spread the joy of the season to so many children is what the true spirit of Christmas is all about.|
By Judy Morris (Elf 1999)
|It takes a lot of hard work and a mighty group effort to prepare for our Christmas flights each year. Of course, one of the biggest and most important undertakings is to have all the gifts for the children wrapped, labeled and packaged by the end of November. This year, Lego generously donated a large amount of toys for the older children on our lists. Unfortunately, we found ourselves rather short on suitable toys for the younger children. At this point we were only three weeks away from the start of our flights and we were not quite sure where to turn. I had met a wonderful woman a few years ago by the name of Deanna Blackburn who worked as a distributor for Applause, Inc., a home based toy company out of California. It took me a few days to get up enough courage to call her and ask for any help she might be able to give us in this matter. Upon contacting her, she was thrilled with the phone call. She told me Applause, Inc. faithfully donates toys throughout the country at Christmastime and she would be honored to help out the Friends of Flying Santa. George Morgan met with her that following Saturday morning and she helped load his van with box after box of dolls and stuffed animals. Without Deanna's help we would have had great difficulty acquiring all the toys we needed in time for our flights, not to mention the added expense we would have incurred. Santa officially added her name to the top of his elf list as the new friend that helped make this year's flights a success. Thanks again Deanna from all of us affiliated with Friends of Flying Santa and from all the children with bright smiling faces that received the toys from your company!|
|We wish to take this opportunity to publicly thank some of our most generous benefactors. For the past four years our friends at Harbour Lights have been supplying us with their beautiful lighthouse collectibles. At the beginning of each year we receive a telephone call from Harbour Lights offering their products for our upcoming fundraising events. These items have become the highlights of our raffles on the lighthouse cruises and bus tours. In addition, they have donated many unique specialty items that have been included in our traditional gift boxes for the Christmas flights. We remain extremely grateful for their contributions to the program. We would also like to express our sincere gratitude to Fisher Scientific International of Portsmouth, New Hampshire. For the past five years, they have donated the services of their corporate helicopter and pilots for our New Hampshire and Maine flights. If not for their generosity and community spirit we would not have been able to return to these northern lights. Without exception, everyone that we have encountered at Fisher Scientific has wholeheartedly supported the Flying Santa mission. They have been extremely flexible, especially in regards to our weather related postponements. Their participation has been a key part of the success of the Flying Santa mission and we look forward to their continued involvement.|