Tuesday, December 9, 2014

A Visit to the North Pole

The UT Mitochondrial Disease Center of Excellence is part of a special group of organizations who are invited to invite their chronically ill patient populations to visit the North Pole! Annually, United Airlines hosts a Fantasy Flight to the North Pole.

We've been invited previously, but this year I felt like Will would really enjoy it and appreciate it, boy did he! Each patient is allowed to bring two guests. Neil and I talked about it and thought it would be fun for Will to bring his cousin Carson.

United isn't kidding around here.... they go all out on everything. They had decorated every inch of the terminal and probably had 150+ volunteers that day.

We arrived on Saturday morning and were greeted immediately by volunteers directing us to the private security line. I was able to leave Will and Carson in the wagon and just pull everyone through. No one blinked an eye at the medicine, ice pack and food supplies I had in my purse. Usually we have to go through quite a bit to get through security with medicine.

We were greeted by Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Cinderella and Prince Charming, Queen Elsa, Frosty the Snowman, Rudolph, and many many elves. We were escorted by one of the Dwarfs to the "hang out" terminal which was fully decorated and had breakfast tacos, Dunkin Donuts, caricature drawing and face painting.

Right as we finished up the caricature drawings they announced it was time to go to the North Pole! We headed over to board our flight and were greeted by a 12 piece orchestra and dressed up carolers. They allowed all the kiddos in wheelchairs to go first. We were in that group I guess because of the wagon, they just ushered us on.

We presented our boarding passes, Houston to the North Pole!

United rolled out its impressive Boeing 787 "dreamliner" plane for the day. First class was like a living room. We then went to the cockpit to meet the pilot, then went to our seats. Thank goodness the airplane offered each person their own touchscreen panel with movies, games and maps. I think we watched 5 minutes of each kids movie available, all at no charge.

As we took off everyone started clapping and cheering and as we reached cruising altitude the pilot announced that he and Santa had worked on a special system that would allow us to travel 4,000 miles in under an hour, as the pilot turned on the super sonic speed the plane bounced up and down a little. Carson and Will were both slightly alarmed at this but then realized it would be okay.

The flight lasted about an hour and we had snack bags delivered and beverages. I know Will and Carson were enjoying themselves - airplane ride, headphones, movies, snacks and unlimited "throwing the deuce" sign. The flight attendants were ALL decked out like Santa's elves and everyone crouched down on the kids level, asked them their names and welcomed them aboard. I was really really impressed with every single person.

They played some Christmas music after snack time and all the flight attendants did a "congo" line around the plane. Everyone was clapping and cheering - very very festive. 

We arrived at the North Pole and were greeted by a cheering line, as you went through everyone was clapping and welcoming us. I was totally overwhelmed by all the STUFF, so I can't imagine how intense it was for the boys.
This is just part of the terminal we were in at the North Pole.

First stop, enjoying a slice of pizza, Gatorade and more donut holes. Then, meeting two Texan players and getting autographed footballs.

Then, Santa. He asked Santa for a Wii....

They gave each patient a really pretty Merry Christmas 2014 silver frame and printed out a professional photo of each person and gave it to you as you were leaving.

United had set up a bunch of different stations, jingle bell necklace making, cookie decorating. They had snowcones, popcorn, cotton candy, candy filled gift bags from Houston Police Department (Will was not a fan of the sniffing dog).

Every detail was executed perfectly and the whole day was simply amazing. Each child left with a gift bag from Santa including a Magic Box set and a really nice 200+ pencil / drawing / easel set. Each family was given a Luby's Holiday Dinner gift card valued at $100. United and its sponsors were incredibly generous. Chevron donated all the fuel for the Fantasy Flight. If you work for one of these companies, THANK YOU!

I got a little choked up just thinking about this day and knowing how special Will would feel. He is just growing up so quickly and I don't even want to think about that.

I told them they could do unlimited deuces if they would also take some nice pictures... 


  1. This is so touching. Tears. I love love love that Will got to do this and also that Carson got to come along. HOW COOL FOR THEM?! I. LOVE. IT. So totally awesome.

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  3. I was one of the flight attendants and it brings happy tears to my eyes that y'all had such a good time...I know we all did! I remember y'all very well. Will and Carson are awesome little boys. I hope Will's Longhorns win a lot of games for him next year. I wish y'all the best! :)

  4. Wow what a great day for Will and an awesome memory for all of you...makes me happy:-)

  5. This was fascinating to read. I had no idea this type of adventure existed, and huge kudos to United, HPD, Luby's, Chevron, and probably many other companies who donate their time and funds to support such a wonderful cause. The smile on Will's face is just awesome.

  6. What an awesome event!! So glad you guys got to participate! It's so touching to hear all the things these people and companies are doing to make the holidays special for others. And the fact that they brought in the Dreamliner for the trip is impressive! Thanks for sharing your experience!

  7. This has got to be one of the absolute coolest opportunities ever! I'm so glad that Will was able to participate this year and that you shared it with us. I was so happy for everybody while reading:) Way to go, United!!