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ST. CHARLES COUNTY, Mo. – When a group of St. Charles County high schoolers welcomed Irish exchange students at St. Louis-Lambert International Airport in Oct. 2019, they were already dreaming of the greeting they’d get in Ireland less than six months later.

“To go see what their lifestyle was like; they were really excited,” said Julie Matthews.

Matthews’ daughter was one of 24 area students scheduled to leave for Ireland on March 15 of last year. Then the pandemic hit and the trip was abruptly canceled.

Matthews said what followed was a series of frustrating phone calls trying to find out how to get their tickets refunded.

“It’s really frustrating to not even know who to talk to about it or what loops to jump through to get to that exact person,” she said.

The refund runaround resulted from the complicated chain of command used to buy the tickets. We’ll skip all that.

“It’s awesome. Pretty ironic that it comes through on St. Patrick’s Day, too,” Matthews said.

Credit the luck of the Irish or a Contact 2 leaf clover but on Wednesday night, the families got an email from the St. Charles Sister Cities Program saying the airlines would refund their tickets.

“It’s really good to have some closure and to know there were people out there who had our backs and the backs of our kids,” Matthews said.

Much needed relief and more than $1,000 headed back to their bank accounts a year to the week they were supposed to arrive in Ireland.

“I think that having your big name behind it and having the support of the news media, it really helped to show it really was an important matter to us and you as well,” Matthews said.