MISSOULA — When the COVID-19 pandemic threatened holiday events and traditions last year, Missoula parents Brian and Lynn Lease couldn’t bear the thought of a Christmas without any cheer, so they gathered a team of volunteers, raised over $6,000, and brought one of the valley’s favorite traditions back home — The Santa Fly Over.
“Hearing the kids and even the adults screaming for Santa was unbelievable. It was inspiring,” recalled Brian Lease, co-organizer of the flyover.
After securing support from the Missoula Downtown Foundation, the Santa Fly Over went off without a hitch, and it left everyone wanting and expecting more.
“There was never a doubt that we were going to take another run at it,” said Lease.
Getting Santa in the air takes one part fundraising, one part logistics, and one part heart. Luckily, head elves Brian and Lynn Lease have plenty of that to give.
“We were both born here and grew up in the valley, and it's something we remembered as kids, and it was something we wanted our kids to experience. Our two little ones and our little one-to-be are all excited, and I mean, my wife is the heart of this thing, she's the one that brought the passion to it and I've just kind of grown with it as it went along, and I'm just as invested in it now, but it's beyond just us.” - Brian Lease
It’s the sponsors like the Missoula Downtown Foundation, the volunteers, and above all, the community, whose involvement can’t be downplayed as organizers race to reach their fundraising goal before Christmas.
“As of Friday afternoon, we were at 44% of our $5,000 goal that we had set for this year's fundraising. Now, the cost of the flights has gone up, everything has gone up, and there are still things we have to fix on him this year.”
Following MTN’s interview with Lease, the group had reached 93% of the goal, a good portion of the fundraising having been tallied up from over the weekend. Any extra funds will be used for future Santa Flyovers.
To donate, visit the Missoula Downtown Foundation here, and choose “Santa Fly Over” as the project. Sources say a donation to the flight is an automatic referral to Santa’s “nice list.”
“We're trying so hard to make this thing grow and make it every year,” Lease concluded.
The flyover crew hopes to have Santa in the air sometime between Dec. 17 through Dec. 23.