The Jackson Municipal Airport Authority (JMAA), including many employees from Hawkins Field, has partnered with the CARES School Jackson for the last three years to bring excitement and joy to the school’s elementary children at Christmas. This year, they brought in some special helpers to make the occasion extra special.
“Our employees just love the experience of giving back and seeing the kids enjoy themselves at Hawkins Field,” said Airport Manager Florencio Soliz. “We wanted to do something a little different this year and I think the kids really loved it.”
Approximately 20 children from the CARES School filed into the aircraft hangar to find a smorgasbord of tasty treats and activities to enjoy all beautifully anchored by a whimsical holiday landscape. After finishing lunch, the children gathered with JMAA staff to decorate ornaments, play board games and have their faces painted. Then came the big surprise.
Previously, JMAA took flight to bring Santa for a visit by way of helicopter. This year, Santa didn’t come by sleigh or even helicopter, but atop the ladder of a fire truck with Mrs. Claus by his side. Sirens blasting and caution lights flashing, Santa made his big entrance accompanied by his team of helpers from the Jackson Fire Department.
While Santa greeted the kids, a team of his helpers assembled to unveil dozens of packages purchased specifically for each child by JMAA staff. Mrs. Claus called the kids up one-by-one to visit with Santa, have their photo made and to tell him their Christmas wish. The wishes ran the gamut from baby dolls and action figures, to warm coats and new tennis shoes, to deeply sentimental.
“I really want my mom to have a day off work to not worry and just enjoy herself,” said one boy. Santa hugged him tightly, then patted him on the shoulder and smiled. “I hope she gets that too.”
With a glisten in his eye, Santa took a moment to recollect before calling the next child to his chair. His firefighter helpers carried packages to the children’s seats and stood by awaiting to see what was inside.
As wrapping paper mounted on the floor, the adults paired off to assist with removing security packaging, installing batteries and small parts assembly. Soon the room was filled with the sound of children playing—rolling Play-Doh snakes, remote control cars racing by, Buzz Lightyear blasting off to “infinity and beyond!” It was picturesque of a storybook Christmas morning.
As the presents were gathered for the trip back to school, the fire fighters had a few more surprises to share. They brought along the JFD “Safetyhouse for Family” simulation trailer to teach the kids how to safely exit a burning building. Most of the children entered the door with smoke billowing from above and safely popped out from the window opposite the structure with smiles of accomplishment and satisfaction.
One of the kids whose sensory challenges prohibited him from entering the Safetyhouse got a personal tour of one of the firetrucks as an alternative. It was a truly special experience for all involved.
Canopy Children’s Solutions would like to thank the staff from the Jackson Municipal Airport Authority, including employees of Hawkins Field, Jackson-Medgar Wiley Evers International Airport, as well as Santa and his team from the Jackson Fire Department, Mrs. Claus who joined us from the Jackson Police Department, and everyone involved for making this experience exceptional for our kids. Without the tremendous support of community members and organizations, many of our children would go without these memorable experiences. Thank you for making their holidays even brighter.
To see the full gallery of photos from the kids’ visit to Hawkins Field, click here to view our album on the Canopy Facebook page. Follow us on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn to stay up-to-date on all things Canopy!