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WMU pilots try their hand at playing Santa

Dec. 19, 2007

KALAMAZOO--Instead of sleighs, pilots from Western Michigan University's College of Aviation turned to two high-tech vehicles to help ensure a merry Christmas for foster children in Michigan.

Four aviation staff members took part in Operation Good Cheer Dec 7. The statewide effort saw pilots from around Michigan transport gifts from corporate and individual donors to more than 4,600 foster children around the state. This is the third year WMU pilots have participated.

Aviation specialist G. Patrick Langworthy and flight instructor Todd Protacio picked up gifts from the airport in Pontiac, Mich., which served as a distribution point, and transported them to Kalamazoo in the College of Aviation's Piper Seneca.

Meanwhile flight program managers Robert Bunday and Thomas McLaughlin picked up a load of gifts in Pontiac and flew them to Port Huron, Mich., for distribution to children in that area. The pair flew the Cessna Conquest leased to the college by renowned Kalamazoo aviator Sue Parish.

Operation Good Cheer began in 1971 as a small program launched by Ford Motor Co. employees. It has grown dramatically since then and this year, volunteer pilots stopped at 16 airports around the state to bring wrapped presents for social service advocates and agencies to donate.

Media contact: Cheryl Roland, (269) 387-8400, cheryl.roland@wmich.edu

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