Last Updated: Mar 31st, 2014 - 14:20:42

With reindeer resting up for Christmas, Santa opts for plane
By Blake Belden, Staff Writer
Dec 16, 2013, 13:32

BLAKE BELDEN/HOPEWELL NEWS/NEWS-PATRIOT Santa greets kids at the Chesterfield Airport on Saturday.

CHESTERFIELD As the red and white plane came to a halt on the runway, the door opened up and out stepped Santa Claus bellowing a hearty laugh and a resonant Ho! Ho! Ho!

It was the Betty Vinson Toy Air Lift at the Chesterfield County Airport, where volunteer pilots flew from all over Virginia to deliver shipments of donated goods to Fort Lee military families and hospitalized veterans.

Santa decided to rest his reindeer and flew into the airport himself while kids clutched at the fence and waved their hands in the air as he landed his plane, where he stayed greeting children and helping receive donations throughout the afternoon.

Joyce Meier, who helped organize the event through the Virginia Chapter Ninety-Nines, said this has been a yearly event that gives a much needed to service to those who fight for our country.

Its terrible to think, but the soldiers, especially the single parent soldiers, need assistance to provide the toys for their children, Meier said.

Staff Sgt. Frederick Sadosky, who was present at the airport with a group of 11 soldiers from the Army Logistics University at Fort Lee, said that this service means a lot to the families who live at Fort Lee.

I think its ... good especially since the economy is not looking so hot. I think its going to help out, boost some morale of the soldiers and the veterans, Sadosky said.

Sadosky said that Christmas time can be very difficult on military families, many of which do not get to be together during the holiday season.

A lot of the soldiers I know donate some of the paychecks home to their families that are having a rough time, especially this time of season. These are families with four or five children, so with this program, it eases the tension of what do we get for little Joe or little Johnny or little Josephine? Sadosky said.

In addition to giving gifts to active military families, gifts were also collected for hospitalized veterans at the McGuire Veterans Hospital.

Last year, Meier said they collected close to 1,000 gifts and by 10:30 a.m. on Saturday, she estimated they already had over 100 donations.

Because of inclement weather, many scheduled flights were delayed until Sunday so as not to pose any dangers to any of the aircraft.

A man from New Kent, who has been a licensed pilot for 40 years, made the 30-mile flight to deliver about a half a dozen gifts on Saturday.

Having personally gotten the gifts, he said it was beneficial for the kids to donate the toys and that he thought it would be a fun thing to do.

Santa arrived at the airport at 10 a.m. and many other events were planned throughout the day until 3 p.m. Musical performances included the L.C. Bird Choir, the Bon Air Strings and Walt Street, a retired member from the Fort Lee Army Band.

Meier said the event was named after Betty Vinson, the Ninety-Nines Virginia chapter member who originally came up with the idea for the toy air lift six years ago. The Ninety-Nines is an international organization of women pilots founded by Amelia Earhart in the 1920s.

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