GREEN In what has become an annual event, Santa and Mrs. Claus flew into Akron-Canton Airport, then took an Akron-Canton Airport Fire and Rescue truck across the runway to greet about 300 excited children.
As the couple walked toward the waiting throng of happy tikes, the sound of "Hi Santa" reverberated across the runway in front of the MAPS hangar. Santa and Mrs. Claus walked up to the long line of children and shook hands while exchanging greeting with the excited little - and some not little - children. They then joined the crowd and went into the hangar, chatting the whole time with the excited children.
This was the 22nd year this event has been put on by the "Women With Wings" organization.
"Years ago when we started, it got so big we moved it to the Akron-Canton Terminal," said Donna Moore. "There, the kids could go out on the runway and greet Santa as he got out of his plane. But 9/11 changed that and we moved it over here to the old MAPS facility, and now we do it here at the hangar."
Sharon Fraleigh, who chaired the event, will pass on the reins next year to Val Sims.
"Kevin Black, is the pilot who plays Santa, and has done a great job," Fraleigh said. "We always enjoy this event and working with MAPS".
Ellen Pretorius, chief pilot for Thomas Murdough, own owns Little Tikes, Step 2, and Simplay 2, said she "really enjoys working with the MAPS staff. They are so helpful and will do anything for us. And we are so happy to do this and watch the little kids who are so excited to see Santa."
There were cookies for the waiting children, who could also tour the museum and sit in the various open exhibits. The most popular exhibit was the twin 40mm gun turret, where the children could rotate and raise and lower the guns.
Nathaniel Heinzeinger was there with his grandfather, New Franklin Veterinarian Dr. Ben Pearson. When asked what he wanted Santa to bring him, the just-turned 5-year-old responded, "I'm not sure what I will ask Santa for." Though, hopefully by the time Santa arrived he would have something in mind.
Brooke Schreffler was excited about being the first one on Santa's lap, but she was even more excited that her mother was expecting twins.
"She even talks to them," said her mother, while the family watched her sit on Santa's lap and give Mrs. Claus a big hug.
Matt and Sebastian Jones were there with their mother and father, Richard and Lauren. When asked what they wanted, they told Santa, "a Daisy Red Rider BB Gun and a telescope that would share with one another."
"This is our annual Christmas event" said Bob Schwartz, chairman of the MAPS Board of Directors. "MAPS invites all the kids in to greet Santa. They have a fun time and we really enjoy having them here. In addition, it also allows us to collect fund for the National Guard food bank."
MAPS Director Kim Kovesci said "this might be my favorite event of the year. The kids are so excited to see Santa. And where else can you get instructions, 'go through the double doors and the Elf on the right will take care of you.' "
Val Kinney, MAPS' resident Elf, summed it up best of all, "HO, HO, HO, and Merry Christmas to all".