Hundreds of volunteer pilots deliver gifts to kids

Operation Good Cheer takes to the skies to deliver about 20,000 Christmas gifts to more than 6,400 children and adults with special needs around Michigan this weekend. Donated gifts will arrive for sorting inside a Pentastar Aviation hangar at Oakland County International Airport (OCIA) between 10 a.m. and 7 p.m. Friday. Volunteers will then load the gifts into at least 276 airplanes for delivery to 26 airports around the state beginning at 7 a.m. Saturday.

“Operation Good Cheer is able to help thousands of Michigan children and adults with special needs experience the magic of Christmas because of the generosity of hundreds of donors and volunteers,” Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson said. “If you ever want to experience the true meaning of Christmas, be a part of Operation Good Cheer.”

Each year, thousands children and adults with disabilities make out their Christmas wish lists for Operation Good Cheer. Generous donors purchase the gifts. Trucking companies then pick up and deliver these gifts at no charge to OCIA where volunteers wrap them. Pilots who have donated their time and aircraft then fly the gifts to airports around Michigan so they can get to their intended recipients. To date, more than 92,700 individuals have had their Christmas wishes come true.

“It really is a sight to see when hundreds of volunteers prepare thousands of Christmas gifts that will brighten a child’s holiday,” said J. David VanderVeen, director of central services for Oakland County, who oversees OCIA. “Oakland County International Airport and our friends at Pentastar Aviation welcome the opportunity to help Operation Good Cheer’s efforts every year.”

Here is Operation Good Cheer, sponsored and coordinated by Child and Family Services, Inc., by the numbers in 2016:

• 17,000+ Gifts delivered
• 5,733 Recipients
• 500 Volunteers on the ground at OCIA
• 257 Gift donors
• 222 Volunteer pilots
• 70 Affiliated social service agencies
• 27 Volunteer transport companies
• 25 Airports and ground destinations statewide

To learn more about Operation Good Cheer which is in its 46th year, go to cfsm.org/ and click on Operation Good Cheer. Pentastar Aviation is located at 7310 Highland Road in Waterford.

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