By Cheryl Albiez, Media Relations Staff
Rockin’ around the Christmas tree, have a happy holiday. Everyone’s dancin’ merrily in a new old fashioned way. Rockin’ around the Christmas tree let the Christmas Spirit ring. – Lyrics and music by Johnny Marks
Traditional holiday celebrations and joyous memories are often centered around the Christmas tree. In New York, visitors from all over the world gather around the nation’s most famous Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center, the epicenter of the city’s holiday celebrations.
So what happens when celebrants can’t go to the tree? DHL, with help from the Port Authority, are making sure the trees go to them – in this case, to U.S. troops serving in Afghanistan, Iraq, Kuwait and Bahrain.
Since its inception in 2004, DHL’s Operation Holiday Cheer has delivered hundreds of Christmas trees, holiday decorations and messages of support to U.S. troops serving abroad, with flights originating from John F. Kennedy International Airport each year.
“It is an important tradition for all of us in DHL—the chance to work with community partners and deploy our global shipping network—and one we look forward to every year,” said Greg Hewitt, CEO of DHL Express U.S.. “For me personally, it’s one of the best presents I receive, because it’s a chance to give the gift of thanks to our soldiers.”
Operation Holiday Cheer began when the mother of a soldier asked Dees’ Nursery, located in Long Island, if she could purchase a Christmas tree to send to her son in Iraq. Although the nursery was willing to donate the tree to the woman, shipping would be expensive. With the help of a local businessman and a partnership with DHL Express and the Nassau County community, Operation Holiday Cheer was born.
“I am grateful to DHL for bringing this great program to our airport. This is a wonderful way to thank our military for their service and for the sacrifices they make year-round,” said Michael Moran, General Manager of John F. Kennedy International Airport. “We are helping make memories.”
Earlier this week, 500 Christmas trees donated by Dees’ Nursery, along with donated menorahs, gifts and decorations, were loaded onto a DHL 777 aircraft on a non-stop flight to the Middle East from JFK. Local community and veteran groups, as well as the Girl Scouts, performers from the USO Show Troupe, schoolchildren and Nassau County dignitaries — and, of course, Santa – all came to help and spread the holiday cheer.
Since the program began, more than 100,000 soldiers at hospitals, headquarters and bases overseas have received 9,000 trees, 450,000 feet of lights, hundreds of pounds of tinsel and 500 ornaments, holiday cards and menorahs.
“In delivering our heroes a tree, we are really sending a special holiday moment to cherish,” Moran said.