PRICE, Utah — Angel Flight West is an organization used to making wishes come true by flying patients to their medical appointments, free of charge, with pilots volunteering their time to make it happen.
But this time of year, the pilots have a different mission: An annual "Santa Flight" that brings hundreds of gifts to children who might otherwise wake up Christmas morning with only a few presents, given at great sacrifice from their parents.
Lee Gerstein is one such volunteer pilot who has previously flown parents bringing their children to hospitals to receive chemotherapy. He has his own plane and feels fortunate to provide the service
"If you've got a plane, how do you not fly them, that's how I see it," said Gerstein.
Gerstein joined 26 other pilots who brought hundreds of donated gifts to nearly 500 children from Creek View Elementary who were waiting for Santa's Flight at Price Airport.
"You wake up on Christmas morning and have nothing, and for some of these kids like I said it is gonna be life-changing," said Creek View principal Keith Palmer.
The event means a lot to the kids, but also to those who made it happen.
"To be able to see their smiling faces and be able to come out here with Santa and Mrs. Claus, it just makes for an incredible day and to start the Christmas season," said Steve Bollinger, Utah Winger Leader for Angel Flight West.
Along with the pilots, members of the local fire department, sheriff's office and National Guard were on hand to help out.
"It was a big deal for this town," exclaimed Gerstein. "And they really appreciated it and it was fun. The kids are really sweet. And it's just you know, it's a great experience."
For Gerstein and the volunteer pilots, they left knowing the impact the trip will make in the lives of the children.
In addition to the gifts, $10,000 in donations was given to the school.
"I'll try not to cry, it's just you hear about these things on the news and now it's it's our school and just nothing but a big a big thank you and we love them and are so grateful for all that they did," said Palmer.