After a 40-minute flight, 120 Valley children will arrive at the North Pole this December.
No, they won't be on a supersonic jet or a sleigh with seven tethered reindeer. They'll be flying on a regular Boeing 757, dubbed "Santa 1." The "North Pole" as it will be, is a gate at Phoenix Sky Harbor transformed by some hardworking volunteers to give more than 100 underprivileged kids a taste of Saint Nick's stomping grounds.
Capt. Bob Miller organized the first event, called Fantasy Flights, 16 years ago.
"The first year, Boeing gave us a plane and a Shell credit card and said ‘Have a nice day,'" Miller said. "And 16 years later, it's still one of a kind. It's such a hit and so much fun for the kids."
The kids, who are mostly classified as homeless, come from Children First Academy of Phoenix. Miller said it is the first time many of them have been on an airplane.
To add to the event, volunteers from Arizona State University athletics, police officers and firefighters, among others, guide the kids through 18 stations at "Santa's Winter Wonderland" in Sky Harbor's Gate 3. The stations feature Christmas-themed activities, including a visit with Santa Claus himself.
"We try to create a lasting impression with the kids with positive role models," Miller said. "They get to talk with firemen, policemen and athletes, and we want to show them, hey, you can do this, too."
United Airlines Fantasy Flights is a 501c3 organization and they accept donations throughout the year. United Airline donates the plane and the cost for everything else comes from the community and other organizations like the Phoenix Coyotes, who put $1,200 toward this year's event.
A fundraising event is on Thursday, Oct. 21 at My Wine Cellar, 5030 E. Warner Road in Ahwatukee Foothills. It will be a wine-tasting event from 6 to 9 p.m.. Tickets are $20. To find out more contact Bob Miller, 602-315-1141