“Request for Christmas flight home for fallen airman’s wife, child, and sister.”
That was the subject line on a December 23 email to members of the National Business Aviation Association. The message, which began with “please, please read the following request,” came from NBAA northeast regional representative Dean Saucier. It asked for donated use of a private aircraft to transport the grieving family of TSgt. Joseph Lemm, a New York City police detective who had been on his third tour of duty in the Middle East when he was killed in a suicide bombing in Afghanistan on December 21. An NBAA member who asked to remain anonymous quickly stepped forward to provide the flight.
Meanwhile, on Christmas Eve in Kansas City, Kansas, there was a knock on the door at the home of six-year-old Caroline Lopez, who had been battling a brain tumor for more than a year. She had recently mailed Santa some of the snowflakes she’d made, and now the Snowflake Princess had come to say that those snowflakes were the most beautiful of all. Would she like to come visit the North Pole?
The Snowflake Princess accompanied Caroline and her mother aboard an Executive AirShare Phenom 300 to Santa’s workshop. (Of course, the window shades were pulled down tight for secrecy for the duration of the 15-minute flight.) At the North Pole—also known as Hangar #2 at Kansas’s Johnson County Executive Airport—more than 500 elves greeted Caroline with their rendition of “We Wish You a Merry Christmas.” Caroline then toured Santa’s workshop, candy land, a reindeer stable, a naughty-and-nice station, and a toy factory. Presents were piled high under more than 50 brightly lit trees.
Hundreds of volunteers had produced this magic. They had worked under the direction of the Elves of Christmas Present, an organization whose mission is to provide surprise gifts and experiences for children who suffer from life-threatening illness and families that have experienced tragedy.
What’s perhaps most extraordinary about the donated flight for TSgt. Lemm’s family and the North Pole visit for Caroline is that they’re anything but extraordinary in the world of business aviation. All year round, the people in this industry seem eager to lend a hand, whether it be to victims of natural disasters anywhere in the world or to cancer patients here at home. That’s one reason I’m so proud to be a part of this community.
Jennifer Leach English is BJT's editorial director.