Flyers deliver donated gifts to hospitals for the Tree of Hope


From left, Steve Guetter, Kjersti Kittelson and Wayne Flury carry donated toys from their airplane into the hangar at the Maple Lake Municipal Airport where they will be sorted and given back to pilots to deliver to 35 hospitals around Minnesota and one in Wisconsin.

Kurt Olson loads a bag of toys into his Cessna 172 RG. He’ll be flying to the Blaine-Anoka area to deliver the toys.

From left, Kjersti Kittelson, Steve Guetter and Scott Klein watch as airplanes filled with toys taxi down the runway. By lunch time, Saturday, most of the toys were bagged and loaded onto planes that would carry them to sick children in need of a little holiday cheer.

Angel Arabbo, on the far side of the first table, and Thuy Pieper, across from him, were two of many volunteers that sorted and labeled toys that arrived at the Maple Lake airport on Saturday. According to coordinator Elaine Morrow, the beautiful weather brought in a record number of airplanes to help distribute toys. A number of cars were also used to deliver toys to hospitals in the metro area.

Monika Bell of Maple Grove sorts through a heaping pile of donated toys. Bell is a member of the Minnesota chapter of the Ninety-Nines, an international organization of women’s pilots that helps to organize the Tree of Hope. It is the only charity of its kind in Minnesota.

Wyatt Ericson, left, and his dad, Tim Ericson, have the job of labeling incoming donations. Tim is a member of the Experimental Aircraft Association, Chapter 237.

Chris Kocinski stands by her plane with a load of toys that she will fly back to her home airport in Anoka. The gifts will then be delivered by car to four area hospitals.

A record 19 planes carrying volunteers and toys from across Minnesota arrived in Maple Lake, Saturday, Dec. 6, for the 25th annual Tree of Hope fundraiser. The toys will be given to children who find themselves in the hospital over the holidays.

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