An official website of the United States government
Here's how you know
A .mil website belongs to an official U.S. Department of Defense organization in the United States.
A lock (lock ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .mil website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

Home : News : Article View
NEWS | Dec. 16, 2014

Wisconsin Air Guard marks 30 years of 'North Pole' rendezvous for young patients

By Tech. Sgt. Jenna Lenski 128th Air Refueling Wing

MILWAUKEE - Elves lined the hallway as families arrived Dec. 13 to pick up their Santa Liner boarding passes. Christmas music played in the background and tinsel and lights draped the ceilings. As the children rounded the corner to the small air terminal, smiles beamed across their faces - Mrs. Claus was waiting for them. These children were about to take a ride of their lives to the North Pole.

The 128th Air Refueling Wing hosted the 30th annual Flight to the North Pole, an event for children battling life-threatening illnesses to take a special ride to the North Pole.

Twenty-one families of children who are patients at the Children's Hospital of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, came to the 128th Air Refueling Wing to take their child on a magical ride aboard a KC-135R Stratotanker. Pilots with the 128th taxied them around the General Mitchell airfield to a hangar that was specially decorated as the North Pole.

Military and civilian volunteers from several organizations throughout the local community joined the 128th Air Refueling Wing to support the holiday flight of fancy: the U.S. Coast Guard, Sector Great Lakes; Cudahy Police Department; and the city of Milwaukee Fire Department. Close to 90 independent civilian volunteers helped coordinate and work at the event.

"The Milwaukee Fire Department is traditionally about taking care of the people in our community, and this is just another way for us to demonstrate that we really do care about the people in our community," said Lt. Edward Schott, a fire lieutenant paramedic with the Milwaukee Fire Department.

Schott attended with his full engine crew on Fire Engine 26. The Milwaukee Fire Department has participated in the Flight to the North Pole for five years. The fire engines from the 128th Air Refueling Wing and Fire Engine 26 escorted the bus full of children to the aircraft that took them to the North Pole. The firefighters offered tours and rides in the fire engines to children who attended the event.

"It's not my duty - it's my pleasure to be here," Schott said. "And to be honest, if this doesn't put you in the Christmas spirit, nothing will."

Once the children arrived at the "North Pole" hangar they played games, watched a magic show and enjoyed a meal with their families. Local businesses made the day special by contributing food, beverages, and gifts.

Finally it was time for Santa and Mrs. Claus to visit with the children and ask what they wanted for Christmas. All of the children at the event, to include siblings of the patients, received a gift from Santa.

The organizers of Flight to the North Pole try to make the event special for everyone in the family. It is a time to take the focus off of the children's illnesses and to let them enjoy an early Christmas with their loved ones.

"The social work department and the oncology department of Children's work very closely together to bring families out here for the past 30 years," said Paula Thompson, a medical social worker at Children's Hospital of Wisconsin.

Thompson has helped organize this event from nearly the beginning.

"My personal opinion is that we are very indebted to the 128th and to the other organizers," she said.

The 128th Air Refueling Wing, Children's Hospital of Wisconsin and all of the volunteers plan to continue this event next year and for many years to come.

(Editor's note: First in a series about Special Operations in the National Guard)



Related Articles
The South Carolina National Guard helped its State Partnership Program partner, Colombia, respond to dozens of fires in the Bogota area in January 2024 by providing helicopter buckets used to drop water or retardant.
South Carolina Guard Comes to Aid of Partner Colombia
By South Carolina National Guard, | Feb. 14, 2024
COLUMBIA, S.C. – The South Carolina National Guard is assisting Colombia, its State Partnership Program partner, in dealing with dozens of wildfires. To help emergency responders battle as many as 30 active fires in and...

Virginia National Guard Airmen assigned to the Virginia Beach-based 203rd Rapid Engineer Deployable Heavy Operational Repair Squadron Engineers, 192nd Wing, conduct an engineer exchange with Republic of Tajikistan military and law enforcement personnel Jan. 22-26, 2024, in Dushanbe, Tajikistan.
Virginia Airmen Conduct Engineer Exchange in Tajikistan
By Virginia National Guard Public Affairs | Feb. 14, 2024
DUSHANBE, Tajikistan – Virginia National Guard Airmen assigned to the 203rd Rapid Engineer Deployable Heavy Operational Repair Squadron Engineers, 192nd Wing, conducted an engineer exchange with Republic of Tajikistan...

Lt. Gen. Marc Sasseville listens as Capt. Josh Hunsinger briefs on daily operations, missions, and the proud heritage of the Communications Squadron, Bangor Air National Guard Base, Maine, Feb. 3, 2024. Sasseville toured the Wing and met with the MAINEiacs as part of a multiday event.
Guard Vice Chief Emphasizes Cyber Readiness During Maine Visit
By Capt. Jon LaDue, | Feb. 14, 2024
BANGOR, Maine - The National Guard’s motto is “Always Ready, Always There,” and for one group of Maine National Guardsmen, being “there” is a loose term with no specific battlefield or location in mind. Being ready is a...