The lost lamb
2/11/2014 1:12 p.m.
It had been a really long day for busy mom Lynne Hillard, flying with her two young children last May from Victoria, B.C., to Los Angeles with a stop in Seattle. That's why she didn't check around her seat quite so thoroughly as she gathered the tired kids and headed for baggage claim. She was on the busy LA freeways when it came to her – or rather – when her son, Ben, realized it.
Lambie was nowhere to be found!
Lambie, her son Ben's plush lamb, was more than just a stuffed animal. Ben and Lambie had been though a lot together. Ben was diagnosed with a brain tumor at the age of four, and through his first, and his second surgery, Lambie had been at his side – the ever-comforting friend to squeeze, hug and cry with.
The tattered lamb had accompanied him at chemotherapy and to multiple doctor visits and, Lynne says, despite his shabby appearance, was a "symbol of hope."
Thus, late that night, Lynne did what every other mom would do and took the first exit off the freeway, returning to LAX. In talking to a customer service agent, who made a trip upstairs to double-check, she learned nothing had been turned in, and that the flight had already turned around for departure. The agent helped her file a "left onboard" report.
Lynne and the kids again got back on the freeway headed for home. Without Lambie.
After she got home and tucked the children in, Lynne got on the phone. Through tears, she recounted the whole story to a Bev Burger, a very compassionate Alaska Airlines reservations agent in Boise, who put her in touch with the airline's Seattle Baggage Service, where the search for Lambie intensified.
Lynne received weekly updates from Alaska Airlines' baggage team explaining the search efforts and within a week, CSA Jennifer Wade called Lynne with a breakthrough. She'd found a stuffed lamb, was it Lambie?
It wasn't. (Who'd have thought there would be two lost stuffed lambs within the same month at Sea-Tac?)
Well, Jennifer didn't give up. In fact, for two months, she continued trying to track down Lambie. As a mother of a 4-year-old, Jennifer knew the special significance of a child's favorite toy. "My heart just went out to her and to that little boy," she says.
Once she realized Lambie was likely lost for good, Jennifer did something remarkable. "I was out shopping one day and noticed a stuffed lamb and thought of Ben," she says.
Soon after, Lynne received a package in the mail addressed to Ben. Inside the carefully wrapped box was a brand-new stuffed lamb. The note, from Jennifer and her coworkers said, "We know this is not the same, but we just wanted to send this new lamb for your son. We'd send a whole farm of stuffed animals if we could. … We are truly sorry." – Alaska Airlines Central Baggage Team
Lynne could hardly believe the kindness. In a letter to CEO Brad Tilden, she wrote, "I cried because Ben's Lambie may be gone, but I cried too because of the understanding, compassion and kindness shown to my son. I would like to thank Jennifer,Donna (Seibert), and all the many Alaska Airlines employees who helped me."
Although her son, who is now 9, has a long road ahead, Lynne said that her faith is rekindled now that Ben has a fuzzy new companion at his side, named Lambie 2. And Jennifer, who eschews any credit, saying it was "such a small thing," now has a photo of Ben and Lambie 2 above her desk at work.
"I wanted to let Ben know that at Alaska we do care," she says.
Editor's note:A photo of Ben with his original Lambie is posted to Alaska Airlines' online image gallery at http://bit.ly/9qVv.