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Road Trip: Santa’s helpers Road Trip: Santa’s helpers

Volunteer for Operation Good Cheer

Road Trip

On December 6 and 7, 2019, Santa will be flying general aviation in Michigan. That’s when Child and Family Services of Michigan Inc. enlists the aid of volunteer pilots who deliver Christmas gifts throughout the state to foster children.

This will be the forty-eighth year of making Christmas wishes come true for foster care children in Michigan through a program called Operation Good Cheer. The Christmas gift-giving program began in 1971, when it was organized by the late Constantine Kortidis; program recipients include infants, children, teenagers, and adults with disabilities.

Thousands of volunteers participate in Operation Good Cheer. Donor groups and individuals purchase Christmas gifts from wish lists. Then, at donor sites, these gifts are picked up, loaded, and transported by volunteer trucking companies and their drivers to Pontiac-Oakland County International Airport. Volunteer pilots use their aircraft to transport the gifts to local airports across Michigan. At each airport, volunteers gather the gifts and deliver them to the children and youth in foster care. This generosity provides thousands of Michigan children—some of whom would not receive anything otherwise—with Christmas gifts, and the joy of knowing there are people who care.

More than 13,000 gifts are delivered each year to more than 7,000 children. Pilots and aircraft descend on Pontiac’s airport and participate in a choreographed ballet of gift sorting, loading of aircraft, and sending flights out across the state.


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Volunteer pilots often get back more than they give—accomplishment, helping others, the smile of a child. Don’t let Santa get all the glory.

Julie Walker

Julie Summers Walker

AOPA Senior Features Editor
AOPA Senior Features Editor Julie Summers Walker joined AOPA in 1998. She is a student pilot still working toward her solo.

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