Kids who survived tragedies, broken homes, get biggest surprise of their lives | News
ATLANTA -- This is the season of giving.
And one big surprise gift for the children who live at Christian City in south Fulton County has them flying on Cloud Nine.
"It's going to be fantastic," said Tad Hutcheson, a vice president at Delta Air Lines. "It's going to be a great Christmas for the kids."
For 30 years, Delta employees have embraced the children of Christian City and taken them under their wing.
"These are kids that don't, for various reasons, don't have a home of their own," said Christian City President and CEO Bob Crutchfield. "These are kids that we would consider abused or abandoned. You cannot imagine the life experiences that they've had."
Kara, 16 years old, has lived at Christian City for more than two years.
And Adam, 14 years old, has been a resident for eight years -- most of his life.
All 37 young residents, who have survived some of the worst of life, gathered Friday night in a Delta hanger at the airline's world headquarters off Virginia Avenue, partying literally under the wing of the historic Boeing 767 "Spirit of Delta," not realizing what was about to happen to them.
"They think they're here for their typical [Christmas] party," Crutchfield said. "It is just going to be mind-blowing for a lot of them, these kids are going to blow the roof off of this place."
The surprise that Delta employees arranged for them this year was even bigger than the personalized presents each child was unwrapping.
"We pooled resources, and Delta employees raised more than $30,000 to take these kids to have a great Christmas," Hutcheson said.
At Friday night's party, just when the kids thought they had unwrapped all of their gifts, out came the elves, and they unfurled a large banner as the master of ceremonies proclaimed what was printed on it:
"It says Delta Air Lines is sending the Christian City kids to Disney World!"
Before he finished the sentence, the children filled the giant hanger with screams louder than any jet engines there have ever roared.
"I can't believe we're going to Walt Disney World!" Kara shouted.
The surprise was not sinking in, at first, for everyone. Some of the children stood stunned that Delta employees were giving all 37 kids, plus chaperones, a whole weekend at Disney World.
"We're going right now!" a woman shouted to one boy. "We're going right now!"
The boy and a friend suddenly realized the enormity of the surprise. They jumped and screamed.
"My heart was pumping because I was scared," Adam said. "I've never been on a plane."
Within an hour, they were on their way -- on Delta's wings, with prayers of thanks.
"This is almost over the top; this is going to the moon for them," Crutchfield said. "It's an experience that will live with them for the rest of their life."
"But what they'll get out of it is not just this trip," he added. "They'll be accompanied by these Delta employees that will individually take these children under their wing, and they will know before these three days are over that there's somebody that cares about them, and they have no reason to. They're people that [they] don't even know. But they love them and care for them. And it changes the way that they see life, altogether."
No one was more grateful than Kara -- apart from family, yet realizing she has found her way home.
"My biggest wish at Christmas time was to just be with friends and family. And I have that! This really, truly has been the best Christmas, ever."