December 03, 2006
Spreading Joy: Program benefits
December 3, 2006
By Christopher Diem
Jeff Surnow, left, of downstate
Bloomfield Hills, hands off Christmas
packages to be given to local foster children as part of
Cheer. About 100 kids in the Upper Peninsula will receive gifts from
the program this year. (Journal photo by Christopher Diem)
K.I. Sawyer — Although it lacked
flying reindeer and sleigh bells, the sleek, white Cessna Citation
jet plane was loaded with toys as it touched down at the Boreal
Aviation terminal at Sawyer International Airport Saturday morning.
Pilots Jeff Surnow and Eric Ray of
downstate Bloomfield Hills stopped in Marquette briefly to drop off
wrapped Christmas presents for foster children as part of Operation
“We wore the wrong colors,” Surnow
remarked to Ray, both of whom were dressed in very un-Santa-like
attire, “I told you we should have worn red.”
Operation Good Cheer includes 40 of
Michigan’s private child and family social services agencies.
Statewide, more than 13,000 new gifts and clothing will be given to
about 4,500 children in foster care, residential treatment and group
homes. This year, around 100 kids in the Upper Peninsula will get
gifts through the program.
Two agencies will be distributing
the gifts locally this year, Teaching Family Homes and Child and
Family Services of the U.P Inc. Teaching Family Homes operates group
homes while Child and Family Services places children in foster care
throughout the U.P.
The event is a volunteer program,
coordinated by the State Office of Child and Family Services of
Michigan Inc. Gifts are donated by thousands of individuals and
people in the business/corporate world, public schools, government
Jill Krah of Teaching Family Homes
said kids started filling out their Christmas “wish lists” in
“Operation Good Cheer sends us wish
lists, and they ask what you would like, your age, your height, your
clothes size,” Krah said. “Operation Good Cheer has a bank of donors
that go out and buy all the gifts for all the kids, (and) sort them
by their wish list.”
Gifts are picked up from 31
locations around Michigan. They are then sorted, loaded into planes
and delivered to regional airports by volunteer pilots.
Tracey Compton, child welfare
supervisor with Child and Family Services, said she appreciated
everyone involved with the program.
“The pilots are always outstanding.
They had tons of presents loaded in their planes,” she said. “I
think it went really well. The donors do a great job at getting the
kids the gifts that they wanted off their wish list. I’m sure the
kids are going to be thrilled with what they get.”
More than a dozen kids from
Teaching Family Homes helped unload the planes, running back and
forth between the planes and waiting vehicles parked on the runway.
Boreal Aviation offers its terminal
for the gift drop-off
“Boreal Aviation terminal at Sawyer
International Airport is proud to help out with this operation,”
said Michael McNeil, line servicer at the terminal.
Surnow and Ray have been taking
part in the program for five years. As he relaxed in the terminal
lobby with a hot chocolate after the unloading was finished, Ray
said the reason for his volunteering was simple: it’s for the kids.
“I do a lot of charities for
children, and this is just one more thing to do for the kids,” he