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Delta Air Lines Takes Primary Children’s Hospital and Shriner’s Hospital Patients to the North Pole

For the first eight years of his life Bret Larson knew all too well what it was like to be stuck in the hospital. That’s why the Operations Service Manager now spearheads a special event with Delta Air Lines, Primary Children’s Hospital and Shriners Hospital.

Buddy the Elf (Delta Air Lines Operations Manager Don McLeish) visits with patients

Twenty-four patients and families from Primary Children’s didn’t need eight tiny reindeer to get them to the North Pole. They had help from the Delta Santa Express. They boarded a plane at the Salt Lake International Airport Saturday. After a quick safety check, the plane “took off” for the North Pole (the Delta Hangar). Santa’s helpers provided in-flight snacks and musical entertainment for the passengers for the 30-minute flight.

“I loved the plane ride,” says Brailey Partida, a former patient at Primary Children’s. 

The Partida Family
The Partida Family

A crowd of elves, joined by mascots from schools and different organizations, welcomed the special guests as they exited the plane. “This event is amazing. Our family has been through a lot this year. To be able to escape and just spend time together is wonderful,” says Jacob Partida, Brailey’s father.

The families enjoyed lunch, created airplane wings and Christmas necklaces, took photos with Olaf of “Frozen,” and climbed into the plane’s engine (turned off of course) to get another picture with a pilot or mascot. The highlight of the event was meeting Santa and getting a special gift from each child’s Christmas list. “I think it’s really cool that they included us in the activity,” says Hailey Partida, Brailey’s sister. “It was really difficult when she was in the hospital. It’s fun to be able to experience this together.”

Each year Delta Air Lines organizes Santa Express flights across the country. The staff based in Salt Lake has hosted the event for three years. About 150 volunteers helped organize it and each department from Delta is responsible for one activity.