airport, Beijing, China

50 Years: Tale of the Traveling Sweatshirt

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Our team prides ourselves on going above and beyond to make each and every program a memorable experience for students, teachers, and parents alike. Our Director of Sightseeing, Rob Teweles, recalls one memorable occasion in which he was one student’s hero, moments before he was scheduled to leave Washington, D.C

I was a Field Specialist in 1993 (yes, this means I’ve been at WorldStrides for 25 of their 50 years!). Back then, the company was known as Lakeland Tours and the position was known as a “Roamer” because we not only helped groups at the three Washington, D.C., area airports, but did metrorail assists, luggage transfers, worked at hotels, answered phones at Tour Central, and even drove small groups around D.C., in a van.

One hot June evening, I was doing out-bounds at Washington D.C’s Dulles Airport. At that time, we were allowed to go through security and saw the groups from the curb all the way to the gate. As I was helping a large group take the “people mover” from the main terminal out to the gates, one boy was telling me about a sweatshirt he had lost on his flight in to D.C., five days earlier. He went on and on about how it was his favorite article of clothing, given to him by his older brother. In my head I knew there was close to zero chance of recovering the sweatshirt, but I took copious notes on the description and promised him I would check with United.

After the group boarded their return flight, I made my way back to the main terminal. As promised, I stopped by the baggage claim office and asked about the sweatshirt. The United guy gave a little laugh and said “good luck” as he went in the back to check. Well danged if he didn’t return with the sweatshirt!

I checked my watch; the group’s flight was supposed to take off in about seven minutes. I raced back to security, begged someone to let me cut the line, then hurried to the people mover that was already full and ready to depart. I worked my way from the back to the front so I would be the first one off.  As soon as the door opened, I sprinted, jumping suitcases, dodging kids and little old ladies all the way to the gate. They were closing the door to the jet way as I got to the gate.

I begged the gate agent to help me be the hero and make this boy’s day and take him the sweatshirt. She gave me a friendly smile and said I could go on and give it to him myself. As I made my way towards the back of the plane, I noticed the entire group was sitting together. As I came into view a kid yelled, “Jimmy, your sweatshirt!”  Jimmy turned and just about cried.

Now this part may sound like an embellishment, but I swear it is 100% true. As I walked down the aisle, with the sweatshirt held high in triumph, and the sun setting through the windows, the entire group started cheering “Lakeland! Lakeland! Lakeland!”

I handed Jimmy his sweatshirt and knew my job was done.

Learn more about our Washington, D.C., programs.


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