Bringing holiday spirit

More than 7,000 to benefit from Operation Good Cheer

BIG RAPIDS — It was a busy morning at Roben-Hood Airport Saturday, as more than 30 planes filled with Christmas presents flew in to be unloaded by awaiting volunteers.

The event was part of Operation Good Cheer, an annual holiday program coordinated by Eagle Village and the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, which helps to bring Christmas presents to foster children across the state.

This year, more than 7,000 children in foster care will receive presents on Christmas morning through the program, Chad Saxton, director of Community Relations at Eagle Village, said.

“Operation Good Cheer is a wonderful organization,” he said. “Its just people with good hearts from all over Michigan that want to help people out.”

He explained in June, participating kids across the state wrote down gift ideas, which were then purchased by willing donors, dropped off at designated stations, and then brought to Oakland County International Airport to be distributed to airports across Michigan for unloading.

Saxton added all pilots are volunteers as well, donating their time to make Christmas morning special for those in foster care.

“They’re volunteers from all over the place, so they’re volunteering their gas, and its expensive for them to do that,” he said. “But they’re glad to be here. Roben-Hood Airport is the place that everyone wants to go, because of the food, because of the service, just all the hospitality in Big Rapids.”

At Roben-Hood Airport, volunteers formed lines from each of the planes, passing down each individual gift and loading them into awaiting vehicles.

The vehicles then distributed gifts to kids in Mecosta, Osceola, Lake and Newaygo counties.

One volunteer helping to load the vehicles was 11-year-old Jericho Holmes, who said as a former foster care kid who used to receive gifts through the program, helping make Christmas special for others in foster care was important to him.

“I just like how these planes come from a far distance and help all these foster kids get presents when maybe they don’t have the money to get this kind of stuff,” he said. “For me, it was always very cheerful.”