Young patients take a trip to the "North Pole" to see Santa

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LANSING, Mich. (WILX) Most kids get excited just to see Santa Claus. So imagine getting to board an airplane to pay him a visit at the "North Pole."

Three young patients from Sparrow Hospital in Lansing got to get on a plane and see Santa. The special event happens every year, thanks to a group of retired flight attendants.

Dozens of young patients from seven hospitals arrive at Detroit Metropolitan Airport to Christmas fanfare. From clowns, to carolers, to costumed characters, it's a non-stop celebration before they board a Delta flight to the North Pole.
Madge McGoorty is a member of the group that organizes the event, the Silverliners. She said, "This means so much to the children."

McGoorty has helped plan the event for the last 33 years. She says it is all about making spirits soar for sick children. "I just want to see them smile and forget about everything and enjoy themselves."

Sparrow Pediatric Nurse Practitioner Cheri Salazar has been on the trip three times with young patients. She said, "They've been through so much and the Silverliners giving that to them and allowing them to have that time and that joy after they've been through is just so wonderful."

Last year, 4 year-old Luci and her grandmother went on the trip. Luci had just spent months in the hospital, fighting a highly aggressive form of cancer. Her grandmother Angie Lentz said, "She was well enough to go, so that was, you know, a bonus. Just getting there and going through the airport just the attention that was on all the kids. It was a joy."

The Silverliners plan every minute to keep kids engaged and excited. McGoorty said, "They have lunch and the captain asks everyone to keep the blinds down because the sun is so strong going to the North Pole and its a secret trip." After a trip around the tarmac, the plane arrives at another gate, where Santa is waiting. McGoorty said, "It's a lot of work but its fun also. It makes you happy, you know, that you can see smiles."

Linda Soliz and her 4 year-old granddaughter Mary Jane are on this year's trip. Mary Jane is fighting leukemia. Last year, her grandmother said the holidays were tough. "She was very weak, she couldn't enjoy it, but she'll enjoy it this year."