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franklin county times

Fly-in benefits Franklin County children

Photo by Tyler Hargett Cross, Blaize and Braxton help children by donating toys at the Helping Santa Fly-in.
Photo by Tyler Hargett
Cross, Blaize and Braxton help children by donating toys at the Helping Santa Fly-in.

By Tyler Hargett for the FCT


Putting new meaning to the phrase “make your heart soar,” the Russellville Municipal Airport once again hosted the Helping Santa Fly-In Saturday. The event is designed to not only allow pilots to stop by for a nice lunch but also to invite community members (and the pilots themselves) to bring new or gently-used toys to donate to the Russellville Fire Department’s Helping Santa Toy Drive. A special bonus for all walk-ins is both the lunch (featuring chili, cookies, and cake) and the spectacular sight of seeing the planes fly in.

The RFD has been doing the toy drive for years, but it was only last year that assistant airport manager Hudean Wilson’s idea for a toy drive fly-in became a reality through the help of Fire Chief Joe Mansell, Airport Manager Harry Mattox, Airport Chairman Dick Tutich and Board Member Johnny Malone.

Mattox, Wilson and Police Captain Mike Prince spread the word about the event through social media, including the pilot website Social Flight. Wilson and his wife Janice prepared the chili.

Two pilots to fly in were friends B.J. Kennamore from Muscle Shoals and Mike Eaton from Killen. Already part of several aerial events in Russellville, they were more than happy to come when Mattox invited them. When asked about the toy drive, they voiced their support for helping the RFD.

“It’s a good cause,” said Kennamore. “Anytime there’s something like this that goes on, we try to support it.”

The RFD has already selected local families who applied for assistance and will take the donated toys to them later this month. Mattox plans to continue the event every December and was proud of how this year’s fly-in turned out.

“I think it was a huge success,” said Mattox. “This is just a small drop in the bucket, but it was worth our effort.”

Drop-off locations are available throughout Russellville for anyone who wants to help make Christmas a little happier for children in need.