The Metroplex looks much different from 2,000 feet above the ground in December. Christmas lights sparkle like glitter dusted on a map, streets wind around buildings and below bridges, and dormant lit pools shine like glowing sapphires.
This is how 9-year-old Alexia Gonzales of Little Elm saw the Dallas area from the cockpit of a Cessna 172 plane Saturday night. She is battling leukemia, and one of her teachers at Corbell Elementary School gave her an early Christmas present by donating an aerial tour with Starlight Flight.
Frisco resident and owner of Starlight Flight David Snell flew Alexia, her mother, and her grandmother on a 30-minute tour of the Metroplex. Alexia, who served as the pilot for some of the trip, earned a log book to record her first flight. She said the experience was nerve-wracking but rewarding.
“It was fun because I turned the plane, and I couldn’t tell what was up or down,” Alexia said.
Corbell special education resource teacher Sandra Wilson won the flight several months ago at a National Night Out silent auction at the police versus fire department basketball game benefitting Special Olympics. Less than a week before her scheduled flight, she decided to donate the trip to Alexia.
“I have three kids of my own, and it touched me because I couldn’t imagine as a mom going through that with my own children,” Wilson said. “I can’t take cancer away from her, but I wanted to do something for her.”
Alexia’s flight was the only one to go out with Starlight Flight on Saturday. Early in the day, Snell thought the trip may be cancelled because of high winds, but they died down enough to get in one flight. The pilot cancelled the flights scheduled after Alexia’s because the winds picked up again.
“Considering what Alexia is facing and has already been through, this was one small evening that hopefully helped Alexia take her mind off her situation for a brief while,” Snell said.
Wilson and two other teachers from Corbell drove to the private terminal in Addison to watch Alexia and her family enjoy the experience. They brought signs of encouragement to wave as Alexia took off from and returned to the runway.
Alexia’s mother, Liliana Marin, said that her daughter loves attending Corbell and is disappointed when she misses school for treatments. Each month she receives chemotherapy at Children’s Medical Center Dallas, and she is expected to undergo treatment for more than two years.
Wilson and Marin said that Alexia maintains a positive outlook on life, spreading joy to those around her, whether at school, the hospital, or home.
“Sometimes when she sees me sad or worrying, she tells me, ‘Mommy, everything is going to be OK,’” Marin said. “She has a very good attitude.”
Although she did not fly last weekend, Wilson is still planning to take a tour of Dallas by plane. Snell said he was so touched by the teacher’s generosity, he offered to reschedule her tour for free.