By DEB KLIER
The morning of Dec. 3 dawned overcast, with predictions of snow in the Flying Cloud, Minn., area. Flight service was reporting weather in the area was OK now, but would get worse later in the day. As we were heading out to the airport, we wondered if we would be able to fly our precious cargo to the Tree of Hope drop-off point at Maple Lake Airport (MGG). Since 1990, pilots in the area have been collecting toys for children who are hospitalized during the holidays.
When we arrived at the FBO, the report from flight service indicated that the snow would hold off long enough to make our delivery. We loaded up our planes and took off and, to our surprise, discovered that UNICOM was so busy with pilots flying into MGG to drop off toys that it sounded like air traffic flying into Oshkosh.
When we arrived it was quite a site to see — there were airplanes everywhere, with more coming in. Pilots from EAA chapters, flying clubs, the Ninety Nines, the Zuhrah Shrine Flyers, as well as individuals, were all bringing toys. Once the toys arrived at the collection site, volunteers helped unload the planes, sort the toys by age group, and then bag the toys so they would be ready to send out to the various hospitals. Volunteer pilots then picked up the bags of toys to distribute to their assigned hospitals.
In all, there were more than 70 bags of toys, each with 25 toys that were sent out to 27 hospitals across the state.
As toys were being collected in Maple Lake, there was a group in the Duluth/Superior area doing the same for the northeastern part of the state.
Before heading home, the pilots were able to enjoy a lunch of burgers and brats while participating in some good “hanger flying” conversation.
For more information: HolidayTreeOfHope.org