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Ill kids from LI take a trip to meet Santa

Ava Poletski, 3, of Lake Grove, gets a

Ava Poletski, 3, of Lake Grove, gets a hug from Santa at JFK airport during the 'Holiday Flight to the North Pole' event. (Dec. 1, 2010) Photo Credit: Newsday / Sally Morrow

His head hairless from two weeks of radiation treatment, 10-year-old Billy Fischer bounded down the steps of a Delta jet parked Wednesday in the hangar at Kennedy Airport and made a beeline to the bounce house.

The Brookville boy and his family were inside an otherwise drab-looking airport hangar decked out in its Christmas best on a dark dreary day. For Billy, who has endured months of treatment for brain tumors, the lights and sights of the holiday season were another sign of good things to come - he's now cancer free.

"He's always been a big Christmas kid," said Billy's father, Morgan Fischer of Brookville. "It has been a long year."

The Fischers were among a half-dozen families from Long Island with children battling health problems who took a 30-minute taxi ride on a Delta Air Lines plane Wednesday from Terminal 2 at the airport to the hangar, transformed into Santa's workshop.

"It's really hard for him," Dana Fischer said of her son's ongoing recovery. "For him to have confidence, to go jump, it's huge. He's weak from the chemotherapy and radiation. We feel blessed to be here, overwhelmed by what Delta put together."

Delta partnered with the Garden of Dreams Charities, a 4-year-old charity run by Madison Square Garden, the Knicks, the Rangers and Liberty. The charity works to "make dreams come true for children in crisis," according to the organization's website.

Cablevision, which owns the Garden and the sports teams, also owns Newsday.

"New York is such an important market for us," said Gail Grimmett, a senior vice president with Delta Air Lines, which held the event for the first time Wednesday. "It's not just about flying planes. It's about being part of the community."

Inside the airport hangar, kids met Santa Claus, played street hockey, bounced on a New York Rangers-themed inflated bounce house, and dined on pizza.

Henry Padron of Centereach enjoyed watching his son, Tyler, 8, play hockey with former Rangers player Adam Graves, now a leader with the Garden of Dreams Foundation.

"It's been a tough couple of months," Padron said, describing how Tyler has had five surgeries in the past three months to alleviate hydro encephalitis, or water on the brain. "We're extremely thankful he's healthy as he is."

Padron said that the make-believe trip to the North Pole to see Santa Claus was positive because his son will no longer associate Cohen Children's Medical Center with another surgery.

"He knows that this was part of that," Padron said.

A.J. Poletski of Lake Grove said his son, Aaron, who also suffers from hydro encephalitis, had his last surgery just before Halloween. He said his son enjoyed his first plane ride, even though it didn't leave the airport.

"The kids are having a blast," Poletski said Wednesday.

Allysa Celentano, a child-life specialist with Cohen Children's, said the Holiday Flight to the North Pole will help families cope.

"Families go though a lot while they're in the hospital," Celentano said. "This is wonderful for them. They get to get out, talk about it, and they're meeting other families."


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