No reindeer here! Santa arrives in helicopter for 'Flight to the North Pole'

By Lauren Verno, Reporter
Last Updated: Thursday, December 07, 2017, 5:01 PM EST

As it has for the past 32 years, Sarasota-Bradenton Airport turned into the North Pole for Christmas, complete with a Santa flown in by helicopter.

  • "Flight to the North Pole" funded with money raised throughout the year
  • More than 150 terminally ill children invited to event
  • Every child receives bag of toys they asked for during the year

Hundreds of people turned out to "Flight to the North Pole" on Dec. 7 to greet Santa as he arrived, including the more than 150 terminally ill children invited to the special day.

"It'll take your mind off of doctors' appointments and needle sticks and medication and physical therapy and all that stuff," said mom Tess Green. "He gets to be just a regular kid."

Manatee County Sheriff Rick Wells credits the magic of this annual event to one man.

"The heart and soul of 'Flight to the North Pole' is Sidney Ettedgui," Wells told us.

By day, Ettedgui works for the sheriff's office, but anyone who knows him would say he was hired by Santa himself. He works 364 days a year to make "Flight to the North Pole" bigger and better than the year before.

Every child attending the event receives a bag of toys they specifically asked for throughout the year. Ettedgui and the sheriff's office raise money for the event annually via other fundraising events, such as the car show in November.

"I look at the faces and look at the smiles, it's all what it's about," Ettedgui said.