Fying home for Christmas – Santa’s Australian mission to reunite Sunderland family

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SANTA hit the airwaves to give one Sunderland family the best gift of all.

Julie Richards, 32, was flown from the other side of the world to be reunited with mum Susan, of Castletown, in time for Christmas.

The family were brought together thanks to Sun FM’s Flying Home for Christmas competition.

Susan entered the contest on-line, desperate to see Julie who emigrated to Perth, Australia, nine years ago to start a new life and train as a nurse.

Julie has been saving up to come back to visit her family, particularly her 84-year-old nan who is suffering from kidney failure.

Now thanks to Sun FM, Julie’s Christmas wish has been granted and she will be staying in Sunderland until mid-January.

“This has been a fantastic competition and it was extremely moving to see the family being reunited,” said Julian Carter, managing director of Sun FM.

Julie arrived dressed up as the radio station’s mascot, Sunny the Seagull, and then removed the costume head for the great reveal – much to her family’s amazement.

The news was announced live on air during the station’s Breakfast Show, which was broadcast from Newcastle Airport’s DoubleTree by Hilton hotel.

“Everyone was absolutely astounded and all off the family were thrilled,” said Julian.

“We’re sure it’s going to be a Christmas they’ll never forget.”

The station also has to deal with a behind-the-scenes drama when the on-line booking agent they arranged the flights with cancelled them at the last minute.

“Luckily the local branch of Dawson and Sanderson saved us by helping us rearrange them – and at a lower cost,” said Julian.

The promotion was sponsored by Home Living and Cooper BMW Sunderland, who also provided a chauffeur driven car to take Julie back to her home.

“This is definitely one of the best competitions we’ve ever run and we’re delighted for all of the family,” said Julian.