News Column

Special Little Guests Take a Trip to the North Pole

Dec. 7, 2012

Elisha Anderson

Carter Agbugui loves airplanes. Sometimes, the 3-year-old's grandfather takes him to Metro Airport to watch them take off and land.

"He's beyond obsessed with planes," said his father, Omokhape Agbugui, 34, of Southfield.

In August, Carter was ready to go on his first flight -- a trip to Florida. But days earlier, doctors found an 8-inch tumor attached to one of the boy's kidneys. He couldn't go because of the cancer.

On Thursday, Carter got the chance to board a plane for the first time: Delta Flight 9752. He was among 41 children with serious illnesses who went on the ride called Flight to the North Pole.

The children, who receive treatment at nearby hospitals, went through security, and then boarded a Boeing 757 at Metro Airport with their families, elves and clowns, who were volunteer Shriners.

The pilot asked for the window shades to be closed for the trip. Then a safety video started and volunteer flight attendants were told to prepare the cabin for takeoff.

The plane sped up on the runway.

That was Aniya Curtis' favorite part, her mother said. The 3-year-old from Inkster sat next to a clown who had a noisemaker in his hand and would set it off when she touched his nose.

Flight attendants served lunch and drinks.

"We've arrived now at the North Pole," the captain said over the loudspeaker, about an hour after the children boarded.

Emily Sobeck, 9, of Royal Oak, who was diagnosed with leukemia last month, said she looked most forward to seeing Santa. He was waiting to greet her when she stepped off the plane.

"Are you ready to party?" Santa asked the kids getting off the plane.

The children went to a decorated room in the airport Westin -- dubbed the North Pole -- and watched a magician and received presents, including dolls, stuffed animals and toy cars.

The event, hosted by the Silverliners -- a group of former Eastern Airlines flight attendants -- has been going on for more than 25 years, organizer Kathleen Laper said.

"I like the smile on the children's faces most of all," said volunteer Lorraine Schultz.

Source: (c)2012 the Detroit Free Press Distributed by MCT Information Services

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