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      Christmas tree ship set to deliver holiday cheer

      I t's a holiday tradition like no other , 1 , 2 00 C hristmas trees traveling across the Great Lakes, so families in need can have a happy holiday.

      E ach winter , the crew of the Coast Guard Cutter Mackinaw load the ship full of trees and travel from Cheboygan to Chicago to make their delivery.

      O ne by one , the bundled up christmas trees were unloaded off of two semi-trucks then carried onto the vessel.

      " It's a little colder this year ," Ryan Alderman, USCG Cutter Mackinaw crew member said. "L ast year it was much better weather doing this but the snow helps add to the holiday spirit."

      T he winds were harsh and the temperature was bitter , but that didn't stop the holiday cheer from spreading.

      " Even on a cold day like this you can see the smile and in the background you can hear the laughter ," Commander Mike Davanzo, USCG Cutter Mackinaw Commanding Officer said. "E verybody's making the best out of it ."

      T he spirits are high , because this crew is about to embark on a long journey from this small port in Cheboygan to Chicago's Navy Pier.

      T hat's where they will deliver 1 , 2 00 C hristmas trees to the families of inner city children who cannot afford one.

      " It's a great tradition that we carry-on year after year and everyone's very welcoming and we even have a bunch of people come on board and help us unload the trees ," Alderman said.

      I t's a tradition that dates back more than a hundred years , when the crew of the schooner Rouse Simmons delivered Michigan trees to the city. The shipped was lost in a 1912 storm.

      I n recent years , the Coast Guard revived the classic journey of the Christmas ship.

      " To my surprise there was a lot of people that never had a Christmas tree before and there was one woman in particular that was in her 40s that this was the first time she ever had a Christmas tree ," Commander Davanzo said.

      S tories like this are what keeps the crew coming back , because giving something as simple as a tree can make a big difference in someone's life.

      " Sometimes we just take it for granted that everybody has a Christmas tree and I think when we saw that the whole crew had a good warm feeling about that so it's a worthwhile cause and we're glad to participate in it ," Commander Davanzo said.

      T he Coast Guard Cutter Mackinaw left Cheboygan today and is scheduled to arrive in Chicago on December 6th.