The Dallas Morning News

Perot helps Santa with Puerto Rico

Plane will ferry toys from Marine program to storm-struck island

- By JENNIFER EMILY Staff Writer Twitter: @byjenemily

Sometimes Santa’s sleigh looks a little more like a luxury plane.

Marine Toys for Tots will deliver 30,000 toys and games to families in hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico this week on a cargo plane owned by North Texas’ Hillwood Airways. Transforme­rs, My Little Pony toys and plenty of Play-doh will be in the hands of children to celebrate Christmas on Monday and Three Kings Day on Jan. 6.

“With Puerto Rico still recovering from the hurricane devastatio­n, we knew there would be an even greater need for gifts this year,” said retired Marine Lt. Gen. H.P. Osman, president and CEO of the Marine Toys for Tots Foundation. “First, Hasbro stepped up to donate toys and games, then Hillwood Airways stepped up to donate cargo planes for transport.”

“We’re so grateful to both organizati­ons for helping to fulfill the holiday hopes and dreams of so many children this year,” Osman said.

Hurricane Maria made landfall Sept. 20 and left 3.4 million people on the U.S. territory without electricit­y. Parts of the island are still without power three months later, and the power grid is operating at 70 percent of capacity, The New

York Times reported.

Just this week, Gov. Ricardo Rosselló ordered a reexaminat­ion of the number of deaths attributed to the storm. Officially, the number recorded was 64, but media reports have raised questions about whether hundreds of deaths went uncounted.

The first planeload of toys left Hillwood’s hangar at Fort Worth Alliance Airport on Wednesday morning for Luis Munoz Internatio­nal Airport. The plane will then pick up toys in Miami on Thursday and deliver them to the island.

Without Hillwood Airways’ contributi­on to haul the toys, shipment costs could have prevented the deliveries, Toys for Tots said. Hillwood is a private charter airline for domestic and internatio­nal travel with rates that typically run $20,000 to $25,000 per flight hour.

Billionair­e Ross Perot Jr. said the airline, part of his cadre of Hillwood companies, found out about the need for someone to haul the toys to Puerto Rico from its employees, many of whom are retired Marines. The plane is outfitted to carry both people and cargo.

“This is what Christmas is all about,” said Perot, chairman of Hillwood. “It’s the spirit of Christmas. It’s the spirit of generosity. In all seasons we’re supposed to help people in need.”

This isn’t the first time Hillwood has used its planes help communitie­s in need. Hillwood flew doctors to Haiti after its devastatin­g earthquake, medical gear to Africa during the Ebola outbreak and relief flights to Puerto Rico after Maria struck.

Perot hoped others would be inspired to help people in need wherever they find them.

Hasbro has helped deliver more than 3.5 million toys to Toys for Tots nationwide in the past two decades.

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