Erin Jones signs autographs for children at the ninth annual Fantasy Flight at the Colorado Springs Airport on Dec. 12, 2015 in Colorado Springs, Colo.
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – A handful of Team USA athletes helped bring the magic of the Christmas season to dozens of children at the Colorado Springs Airport on a snowy December evening.
The ninth annual Fantasy Flight Saturday, about 50 at-risk children had the opportunity to take a 30-minute flight from Gate 11 to Gate 15 (aka the “North Pole”), receive gifts from Santa and meet Olympic hopefuls.
The event was held through the support of the Colorado Springs Junior League, SkyWest Airlines (a partner of United Airlines), the Community Partnership for Child Development (which provides about 2,000 children living in poverty and challenged by special circumstances with an early childhood education) and the U.S. Olympic Training Center.
Among the athletes in attendance this year were triathlete Erin Jones, wrestlers Nikko Triggas and Candace Workman, and modern pentathlete Logan Storie.
“It’s always so much fun to give back to the community,” said Jones, who has now volunteered at Fantasy Flight in three of the past four years. “It’s always fun to come out and see the kids because you can tell they like it. As an athlete representing Team USA, I feel like we are inspiring them to be something bigger.”
Jones noted this is one of her favorite events that she volunteers at, saying “Living at the (Olympic) Training Center gives us a lot of opportunities to get out in the community and this is always one of the more fun ones.”
|(L-R) Logan Storie, Candace Workman, Nikko Triggas and Erin Jones sign autographs at the ninth annual Fantasy Flight at the Colorado Springs Airport on Dec. 12, 2015 in Colorado Springs, Colo.|
“It’s just fun to see the kids’ faces light up,” said Storie, who was the fourth-ranked American modern pentathlete following the 2015 season. “It’s great to get the kids excited about something and it doesn’t take any time out of our training schedule, making it a win-win situation.”
Workman thinks that the chance to interact with kids is special, especially because of her sport.
“It’s awesome to let the kids know that girls wrestle too. Most of the time I tell people that I wrestle and they are like, ‘Girls wrestle too?’ That’s one of my favorite parts about doing this.”
Triggas and Workman also volunteered at the event last year.
“As soon as the email (to sign up) for the event came out, I think we were the first ones to reply,” Triggas said.
Following a Team USA calendar autograph signing, the children boarded a flight to travel to the North Pole. The flight took a short route before landing back at the airport terminal. They entered a separate gate where Santa was on sight to hand out gifts. Dinner was also provided for the kids and their families.
Triggas and Workman experienced the flight with the children this year, just as Storie and Jones had done in past years. Storie recalled his experience on the flight last year, saying “The plane was all decorated and Christmas carols were sung the entire time. I just looked around at all the kids’ faces and the look they had was so awesome.”