Story and photos by Lenis Rodrigues, Media Relations Staff
During the holiday season, Delta Air Lines will be shuttling hundreds of thousands of passengers from John F. Kennedy Airport to destinations all over the globe.
But one special passenger arrived this morning to meet and greet thousands of special children on a magical day in Queens. The Macy’s Santa Claus arrived not with a sleigh and eight tiny reindeer, but via a Delta 767 jet bound from the North Pole. From the plane, it was on to a train that enabled Santa to take a spin around the colorfully decorated Hangar 19 at JFK.
As has been tradition for more than 40 years, Santa was the star attraction at the Community Mayors Operation Santa event held in the JFK hangar this morning under the watchful eyes of dozens of Port Authority staff. More than 3,000 children from New York City communities with special needs were entertained this year after eagerly awaiting the arrival of Jolly Old St. Nick. They were bused into the facility and exited their buses singing along with the Christmas carols being played in the facility.
“This event makes the days of all of these children brighter and that is more than enough to bring tears to my eyes. At the end of the day you know you’ve done something good,” said Shelley Della Rocca, the volunteer president and CEO of Community Mayors whose father, Dominick, began running special events for kids in need 65 years ago.
It was a remarkably festive event, featuring Macy’s balloons, volunteers and children dressed as clowns, parading cartoon characters, and marching bands that included the Port Authority Police Department Pipe Band and Honor Guard. In keeping with the spirit of the day, Fernando Garcia, a student at P.S. 993 in Floral Park, Queens, asked Santa for his very own airplane for Christmas. And he wished Santa, Mrs. Claus and all of their friends a Merry Christmas.
Community Mayors is a not-for-profit organization that continues to help children with disabilities and host special events for them, relying on thousands of volunteers from uniformed service organizations, business and government, including the Port Authority, to carry out its mission.
“The continued success of Operation Santa at JFK for over 40 years already speaks volumes,” said JFK Airport General Manager Michael Moran. “It is a testament to the dedication and collaboration among our airport community, federal partners, and elected officials in supporting children with special needs during the holidays.”
“Delta is committed to giving back to the communities in which we live, work and serve,” added Stephanie Baldwin, Delta’s Vice President-Airport Operations at JFK. “We’re proud to be a part of this holiday tradition.”
The event also underscored the special relationship that JFK, Delta and the Community Mayors maintain with Macy’s. “It is incredibly rewarding for everyone at Macy’s to extend the magic and bring the joyous spirit of Santa to so many of New York City’s children with special needs,” said Susan Tercero, Group Vice President of Macy’s Branded Entertainment.