Santa trades in sleigh, flies helicopter full of toys to Catalina Island for kids in need

Santa Claus upgraded his sleigh and flew a helicopter to Catalina Island to surprise children in need for an early Christmas.  

"It makes me feel warm to be able to take it across the channel and deliver these toys to kids who make not have an opportunity to get to a store," said Santa.  

IEX Helicopters teamed up with the City of Avalon, LA County Sheriff’s Department Youth Foundation over at the Avalon Station and people in LA and Orange Counties to host a toy drive for kids on the island.  

"Thank you very much for everybody’s donations," says IEX Helicopters’ Alex Dobi, who helps take visitors on the 15-minute flight to Catalina every day expect Christmas, sometimes up to 20 flights per day. "We collected so many gifts for the toy drive that we ended up having to use two helicopters. It brought us so much joy to see how many people helped some of the local families affected by the island shutdowns."

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Many people who live over in Avalon rely solely on the tourism industry that got hit very hard by the pandemic because so few people were visiting the island and spending money at hotels, restaurants and shops.  

"It’s been a really rough year," says Resident Bre Bussard. "My husband’s been a commercial lobsterman over on Catalina for the last probably three years now. 2020 took a huge hit, having trouble finding buyers during this time."

Santa landed the chopper and with help from his elves, LASD’s Captain Joseph Badali and his deputies, they handed out presents to dozens of wide-eyed children, watching in awe. They hauled the rest of the gifts to Avalon’s City Hall to about 20 excited three - five-year-old kids who had been listening to Christmas stories around the tree.  

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