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WestJet brings holiday cheer to Fort McMurray

After the devastation of the wildfires, an Alberta-based airline has stepped in to spread some cheer in Fort McMurray.

'It's been a bit of a struggle this Christmas ... but that party just lifted our spirits'

Hundreds of Fort McMurray residents received free flights and a pile of Christmas cheer from WestJet this year. (WestJet )

After the devastation of the wildfires, an Alberta airline has stepped in to spread some seasonal cheer in Fort McMurray

Every year WestJet creates a "Christmas Miracle" for its customers and documents the surprise in an annual video.

This year, the airline flew north to give Fort McMurray residents some much-needed holiday cheer.

In November, the company hosted a Snowflake Soiree for everyone in the city, doling out gifts, a live performance by Canadian music superstar Johnny Reid and a cameo from Santa Claus. Just over 800 Fort McMurray residents showed up for the event, and everyone who attended was given a free airline ticket.

'Santa came out of pretty much nowhere'

WestJet is known for its Christmas videos that tend to tug on the heartstrings, and the fifth annual video, released Monday, is no different.

The video of the Fort McMurray celebration starts like this:

This story begins before Christmas was a thought

The story is happy, the beginning is not

 

"Santa came out of pretty much nowhere and said, 'Ho ho ho. Merry Christmas' " said Rhys Popejoy."And there was these big balloons with baskets and they tipped them down, and a bunch of gifts came flying out."

Among the Snowflake Soiree guests were seven families who received special gifts from WestJet workers, who heard the families' stories and wanted to help by giving them their own irreplaceable items.

'It just touches me so much'

Rhys was among those special guests. 

He lost most of his beloved Harry Potter collection in the wildfires. His mother, during the evacuation panic, remembered to grab his Harry Potter cloak from their house before they fled the city back in May. Their home is still standing but everything inside was destroyed by smoke and ash. 

During the party, Rhys was given some rare collector items from the J.K. Rowling series, including a golden snitch and Quidditch goggles.

It all came from the personal collection of Jessica Fitzgerald, a WestJet worker. 

"It's hard for me to even talk about it," said Rhys' grandmother, Lynne Clarke. "Because it just touches me so much that she would do that from her own collection from when she was a child. It was amazing."​​

According to WestJet, the night featured 500 stockings and 300 pounds of candy. A total of 348 parachutes were dropped, and 48 WestJet volunteers helped put it all together.

"It's been a bit of a struggle this Christmas because it's so different, but that party just lifted our spirits," said Clarke."It was so amazing."