MANATEE COUNTY, Fla. — The 36th Annual “Flight to the North Pole” hosted by the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office takes 100 children with terminal illnesses and disabilities and their families on a magical train ride to the ‘North Pole’ to see Santa.
Five-year-old Bridgett, who has Rett syndrome, her twin brother Kylo, who also has special needs, and their siblings say the event gives their family a special Christmas together.
"It's our third year coming and it’s always so much fun," said Arthur Philips, their father.
Donations from the community help pay for the North Pole experience including rides, food, balloon animals, and more than $150 in gift cards for each family to buy gifts.
Philips says the gift helps families on fixed incomes celebrate Christmas.
"It's kind of hard with just me having my income and my wife having to stay at home because (Bridgett) needs 24-hour care. So this gives us an opportunity most years to make sure that they get something," said Philips.
Families say it gives the children a chance to forget about the challenges they’re facing for a day, and just enjoy the love and joy of the holiday season.