Delta employees go to great lengths to find special shirt that belonged to a little boy's dad

Cole Holzer keeps shirt in memory of father

SAN DIEGO - A 7-year-old boy was devastated when he lost the most valuable connection he has to his late father, but a group of airline workers was willing to go to great lengths to help him.

Cole Holzer's father died three years ago after falling while putting up Christmas lights. The young child found a way to hang on to the memory of his dad by clinging to the shirt his father was wearing at the time.

Cole said the Nike shirt means more to him than anything "[because] it reminds me of my dad."

"Ever since, he'll lay it out and spray his dad's cologne on it and he will cuddle up every night and sometimes sing the daddy song to go to bed," said Cole's mother, Tonya Holzer.

Cole and shirt were inseparable, and he carried it with him when his mom flew the family from North Dakota to San Diego for a vacation at the end of March.

However, in the rush to get off the plane, the shirt was left behind.

"He all of a sudden starts screaming, 'I lost it, I can't find it, I can't find it,'" said Cole's mom.

The family was already driving away on the interstate, so Tonya Holzer's friend, Kelly Cruchet, started working email, Facebook and the phone in an effort to find the shirt. She started by calling Delta Airlines.

"I cried on the phone with the first lady, she cried back," said Cruchet.

Word spread to pilots, ground crews and ticket agents. They were all looking for the shirt, but at first, they couldn't find it.

"She was very emotional and she said we're going to start pulling the garbage from the plane," remembered Cruchet.

About 30 minutes later, Cruchet got a call.

"She said, 'Kelly, we found it, we've got it,'" Cruchet said.

"They found it. They went through the garbage and found it," said Tonya Holzer.

Cruchet's contact on the phone was local Delta customer service agent Vicki Katseanes.

"A loss in itself, I can't even imagine and then being able to hand the shirt back to Cole meant the world," Katseanes said.

The compassion of the Delta team who found the shirt made a little boy's day.

"I was really happy because I like it so much," Cole said.

It may be torn and tattered, but to Cole it is the comforting touch of his dad, a way for him to still be there for his little boy.

"They gave a piece of his dad back to him," said Cole's mom.

Katseanes said finding the shirt was a team effort. They knew they had to move quickly to improve the odds of finding the shirt because of the fast turnover of planes and their contents.

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