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See Juneau from above this Friday - for a good cause

Posted: December 19, 2012 - 1:01am

Coastal Helicopters and the Mendenhall Flying Lions Club will be hosting ‘Christmas Light Night Flights’ this Friday, an annual holiday tradition that raises money for a good cause.

The 10-minute helicopter tours fly passengers over the Mendenhall Valley at night to see the Christmas lights and the Mendenhall Glacier.

The ride costs $30 per person. Flights will begin taking off at 4:30 p.m., Friday, Dec. 21, from Gate 1 of the North Wing of the airport building.

Tours are given on a first-come, first-served basis. The event only lasts until 7:30 p.m.

Half of the proceeds go to the helicopter company, which donates all the money to the Children’s Tumor Foundation, a nonprofit which seeks treatments and cures for Neurofibromatosis.

The other half of the proceeds goes to the Lions Club for their Sight Projects Fund. The club provides vision screening for children and students in Southeast Alaska to detect pediatric eye disorders.

The past president of the Lions club who is helping organizing the event, Neil Atkinson, 62, says the money raised this year will go towards purchasing a new vision screening computer device, which costs about $8,000.

Coastal Helicopters first began hosting Christmas Light Night Flights in 1989 or 1990, according to Mike Wilson, 43, the general manager of Coastal Helicopters.

Wilson said his father began the tradition as a way to support his friends and fellow aviators, Craig and Aral Loken, whose son has Neurofibromatosis.

Coastal Helicopters then asked the Lions to help them organize the event in the early 2000s, and they have teamed together ever since. Last year, the Night Flights raised a total of about $9,200 to $9,5000.

Wilson says the night flights is a great opportunity to get into the Christmas spirit by giving to a good cause, and also a fun way to see the Christmas lights.

“I think Friday night’s really going to be nice,” Wilson added. “It’s supposed to be semi-clear, so the glacier is just going to be glowing.”

• Contact reporter Emily Russo Miller at 523-2263 or at emily.miller@juneauempire.com.

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