Delta’s Santa Express gives young patients a festive day away from hospitals

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SALT LAKE CITY -- A very rare round trip flight took off from the Salt Lake City International Airport Saturday morning, and it was carrying some extra special passengers as far north as possible.

It was a day when some pretty young patients got to put their sickness behind them and just be passengers. Delta airlines partnered with Shriners and Primary Childrens hospitals to host a Santa Express flight to the North Pole.

The international terminal of Salt Lake Airport was packed with holiday cheer as more than 250 guests arrived for a one of a kind trip. A total of 25 children from both hospitals, along with their families, were taken by bus to the airport for a day away from their usual hospital beds, exam rooms and operating tables.

“So all of the kids here today have had major back surgery for their spine or maybe have gone through extensive physical therapy, maybe for a prosthetic arm or leg, and so these kids have been through a lot,” said Dawn Wright, a spokeswoman for Shriners Hospitals for Children, Salt Lake City. "They are real champions though. So we’re excited to give them just a day to be kids.”

Max Brown, 11, was very eager to be on the news.

“Alright am I ready to hit the camera yet? I will be added to the news,” he said as the cameras rolled.

Born with cerebral palsy, Max has spent seven years at Shriners Hospital. He’s gone through multiple surgeries, one just last month, but you wouldn't know it by his high spirits.

“He doesn’t take anything for granted and takes joy in the simple things,” his mother, Maryann Brown, said.

Everything about the magical flight was like the real thing. Kids even had to go through the TSA checkpoint, since safety is always a priority with such precious cargo.

The Boeing 767 actually pulled out of the gate, taxied for about 45 minutes while passengers were given cookies and milk, and, of course, there was caroling.

“It’s just so nice to know that somebody cares and is trying to make your Christmas season better,” Brown said.

The highlight was of course the Santa Express, where Santa and Mrs. Claus were waiting to give some special attention to each and every passenger.

All of Delta’s employees who made the day possible were volunteers who donated their time. Officials with the airline said they had so many employees who wanted to help, they had to turn people away. The event lasted from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., and every child went home with a Christmas gift and a freshly stamped passport.

For more information bout the ways you can help a young patient at Shriners Hospital have a brighter holiday, click here.

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