CRJ Captain Zelaya Amaya grew up in Honduras and never experienced the traditional magic of Christmas. His family always celebrated the holidays with new clothes and fireworks, but with two brothers and four sisters, his parents had a lot of mouths to feed and Christmas presents weren’t in the budget. He always hoped that Santa Claus would stop by his house to drop off some presents, but it never happened.
At nine, and no longer believing in Santa, Captain Zelaya Amaya moved to the United States where he began a new life. He eventually became interested in aviation, enrolled in flight school, and joined SkyWest in 2021.
Over the years, Captain Zelaya Amaya has continued to think about his home country and how he could give back. In recent years, Honduras has faced numerous natural disasters, displacing hundreds of thousands of people and wiping out crops, infrastructure, and homes. Additionally, Honduras is one of the poorest countries in the region with over 50% of the population living in poverty.
This year, Captain Zelaya Amaya had the idea to fulfill his childhood dream by bringing the Christmas spirit to the children who, just like him, had never experienced a visit from Santa.
“I wanted to help the kids forget what they’ve been through these past few years,” he said.
He started a GoFundMe to raise money for toys and other goodies. Then, dressed in a big red suit with a fluffy white beard and boxes of gifts, he flew to Honduras.
“I am very thankful for the job I have here at SkyWest,” Captain Zelaya Amaya said. “Without it, this wouldn’t have been possible.”
During his trip, Captain Zelaya Amaya says it was thrilling to hand out toys and food to the struggling community called Rio Blanquito. The children jumped around, beaming with joy and excitement as their dreams came true. Memorably, one child ran up to him, hugging and thanking him for his new toy car.
In total, he estimates that over 1,000 children received a toy. Additionally, 40 kids received a backpack filled with school supplies and 50 families received a bag of staple groceries.
Captain Zelaya Amaya plans to return to Honduras again next year, spreading the Christmas cheer to even more children.