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Sheila Schmotzer Headshot.jpg

December 7, 2020


I love writing narrative nonfiction stories for children, it's my favorite genre. I had just finished a new manuscript a few weeks ago when I saw Susanna Leonard Hill's Holiday Helper Writing Contest for picture book writers.

I tossed the idea to enter around for a couple of days and on Sunday morning, I woke up and the story I knew I was meant to write came to my mind. I literally jumped out of bed, went directly to my computer desk and started researching, taking notes, going back through my work files at my airline, saving photos, watching videos and writing this story.


Never, have I been so excited about one of my writing entries for a kid's literature writing contest before.

The story of the little stowaway owl that was found in the branches of the Rockefeller Christmas tree is a story that has gained so much adoring attention, went viral, and will be told by people for generations.


This story was so popular in fact, it caught the attention of a major US airline. Coincidently, or maybe it's fate, it's Frontier Airlines, the airline I'm employed as a flight attendant with. In the spring of 2021, I will be flying high in the sky on an Airbus A320N  with "Rocky the Owl" featured on the tail and winglets! Rocky's story is a message of hope and goodwill. 


After such a challenging year this year... this message of hope is more important than ever before and touches our hearts in ways we couldn't have ever imagined.

 Rocky helps remind us that the spirit of “hope” which Christmas brings is to be treasured not only during the holidays — but always.

I hope you enjoy my entry.


Rocky the Owl:

How The Rockefeller Christmas Tree Owl Helped Save the Spirit of Hope

By Sheila Schmotzer

Word Count: 250

      It’s six weeks until Christmas. A trailer bringing a tall, green, holiday symbol of “hope” arrives by police escort after traveling 170 miles from upstate New York to midtown Manhattan. It will become the Rockefeller Christmas tree. No one knows yet…the surprise inside this tree.

     Setting up the 75-foot tree, a worker makes a discovery. He sees a tiny creature with big yellow eyes, and a cat-like face tucked away in the branches of the Norway spruce. It’s an owl!


     Uninjured, the owl is rescued from the tree.

     A Saw-whet owl, one of the smallest owl species in North America, the little bird captures everyone’s heart. Named Rockefeller after the historical city landmark, she’s called  “Rocky”. Swaddled in a sweater and hungry after having not eaten for days, Rocky is transported to a nearby wildlife center to be taken care of.

     To rehabilitate, she must gain weight and trust her instincts. With a week of nursing and mice-filled meals, spunky Rocky recovers.


     It’s the time in the year for owls to migrate south. Rocky’s caregivers prepare her for a safe release back into the wild.


     The researchers, avian veterinarians located an ideal natural habitat near the center and timed for a sunset release. Rocky sat perfectly still. Her soft brown and white wings stroked, they began to flutter. Rocky lifts off the caregiver’s finger-perch and takes flight.

      Swooping her way to the nearest pine, Rocky’s off to new adventures with hope— and a special holiday memory of a lifetime.


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