Patients from Cohen Children’s Medical Center took off from LaGuardia Airport and landed at the North Pole Saturday, where they met Santa Claus and received gifts to brighten their day.
“The North Pole is reporting some cold weather and snow,” an on-board flight attendant said.
The plane was decorated with Christmas lights along the overhead bins and the crew told the children to pull down the shades on their windows because Santa did not want anyone to know where his secret workshop was located.
By shaking bells and chanting, “Merry Christmas,” the children powered the plane to the North Pole.
Cohen is a part of the North Shore-Long Island Jewish Health System and is adjacent to LIJ Medical Center.
The North Pole was actually a US Airways hangar at LaGuardia, but the kids and their families received boarding passes, were checked in by volunteering US Airways employees, passed through airport security and took their seats on Flight 1225 to the North Pole.
In reality, it never left the ground but taxied its way to the hangar.
Caran Tobias, a 2-year-old leukemia patient at Cohen, was cheering and screaming throughout the flight.
“She’s excited. She’s on the plane and she’s touching stuff,” said Caran’s father, Eric Tobias, of Huntington, L.I.
“I think it’s a great experience,” he said. “It’s nice to bring families together. We’re kind of grateful for the whole experience. A time like this, it’s really important to all these families.”
When the kids got off the plane and walked to the hangar, they were greeted to a DJ blasting Christmas songs and hugs from Santa and Mrs. Claus.
“I’m excited. It’s beautiful,” said Natacha Beaubrun, of West Hempstead, L.I., whose 4-year-old son Christopher has sickle cell anemia.
Christopher was too elated to comment, instead dashing toward a cotton candy machine.
“It’s really amazing. It’s a wonderful experience. US Airways did a really great job,” said Robert Prust, of Huntington, L.I., whose 3-year-old son Colin is battling leukemia.
“He was excited. He couldn’t sleep last night,” he said of Colin, who asked Santa for a violin and drums for Christmas.
Long Island City resident Irving Rojas has a 2-year-old son who is fighting leukemia. He said the fantasy flight was a welcomed distraction from son Michael’s illness.
“It takes a lot of weight off the shoulders of the parents,” Rojas said. “It’s something different.”
Thereas Zervas, of Lynbrook, L.I., the mother of 6-year-old leukemia patient Laura, said she was touched by the volunteers who made the flight possible.
“This is an amazing thing that everybody does here,” she said. “They’re here with their hearts and you forget about everything. They give [the children] a chance to be kids and run around instead of being in the hospital.”
This is the 15th year the hospital has partnered with US Airways and LaGuardia to fly the kids to the North Pole.
Shoshana Bronner has been a Santa’s helper for the flight for five years.
“It’s a lot of work, but at the end of the night you feel good,” she said.
A similar flight out of John F. Kennedy International Airport was flown Tuesday with patients from Cohen.
Reach reporter Howard Koplowitz by e-mail at hkoplowitz
©2011 Community News Group
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