Just in time for the holiday season, here’s a feel-good story about a supplier that’s stepping up to help a travel agent’s group get to their destination in style — and for a good cause.
Every year, Eileen Radcliffe, owner of EBR Travel out of Boston, plans to travel for a group of high school students to the Give Kids the World Village in Orlando. About 35-40 make the annual trip.
The students have a Make-A-Wish Club at school, which raises funds for the Make-A-Wish Foundation, and the trip to Give Kids the World Village is a chance for them to volunteer their time on a service trip (Give Kids the World Village Children the World works with many wish-granting groups, including Make-A-Wish).
Give Kids the World Village is a non-profit resort in Kissimmee, Fla., that offers free weeklong vacations to seriously ill children and their families who want to visit Florida and nearby attractions such as Walt Disney World Resort, Universal Orlando Resort and SeaWorld Orlando (all three, and other hospitality companies, are partners in the Village).
“This is not the kind of business I usually do,” Radcliffe said. “I do the Disney book, but I don’t specialize in sets for Disney or anything like that. But this set every year, I like to do it just because of the connection to it. And I, watching closely — because I’ve traveled with them for a year — to see what students get out of it and hear about it from peers every year. It’s amazing. It’s really incredible.”
A hurricane hiccup
This year’s group left for Orlando from Boston last month, on a Tuesday in early November, just before Hurricane Nicole was scheduled to make landfall. They were flying on Delta Air Lines.
Radcliffe, of course, began working with Delta’s band department. But with the airport closed due to the storm, the best they could do was a Saturday morning flight to Tampa.
Simultaneously, however, an attendant tweeted about the delay, tagging the New England Patriots with a request to use their private plane. Although the Patriots kept mum, Delta was also tagged in the tweet and got the airline’s attention.
On Wednesday afternoon, a Delta representative reached out with good news, Radcliffe said: He had arranged a flight that would take them to Orlando on Friday, just in time for their scheduled work shift at Give Kids the World.
However, not only did Delta fly the group to Orlando, Radcliffe reported, but representatives escorted them through the check-in at Logan Airport and opened a dedicated TSA line for them in Boston, then treated them to breakfast in the Sky Lounge.
Special connections in flight
The flight itself seemed almost destined to be. Radcliffe shared a Facebook post from club adviser Jennifer Pavia-Shiels talking about the trip.
Pavia-Shiels said that as the group boarded the plane, the pilot took them aside to thank them for volunteering in the village. As it turned out, he was a wanted child himself after multiple brain tumors and surgeries in his younger years. It was actually his last flight for the airline and he was only asked to fly it 30 minutes before.
“Bullying,” Pavia-Shiels wrote. “It seems fitting that our worlds would intersect in such a wonderful way.”
The group also had a wonderful reception in Orlando, Radcliffe said. They received goody bags of food and were personally escorted to their waiting transfers.
The Delta representative who assisted the group is Harry “Bud” Sullivan, manager of ground support/reservations operations and customer center for the airline.
“Taking care of our customers and doing everything we can to help them through challenging times is always our top priority,” said Sullivan. “I am grateful that I was able to help this group with their annual volunteer trip to Give Kids the World Village in Orlando, as it is such a great cause that they are supporting and one that is near and dear to my heart.”
In addition to Delta, Radcliffe also offered a shout-out to her host agency, Travel Planners International. Team members had provided assistance in planning group travel and monitoring changes. Mears and the Disney Youth Groups were also instrumental in making the trip happen.