By Lt. Bernie Kale
Alaska National Guard
Hundreds of children living in Alaska villages will soon be celebrating the 57th annual Operation Santa Claus. This event is part of the Alaska National Guard's yearly community relations and support program that provides toys, clothing, books, school supplies, fresh fruit and sundaes to youngsters in communities across the state.
Operation Santa Claus will be traveling to three communities this year: Kake, which was Nov. 14, Kwethluk Nov. 22 and St. George Island Nov. 26.
This year's events will bring Santa, Mrs. Claus and a team of elves to these villages on a variety of Santa's sleighs-an Alaska Air National Guard C130 Hercules, an Alaska Air National Guard C17 Globemaster III and an Alaska Army National Guard UH60 Black Hawk helicopter.
How it began
The Alaska Air National Guard originally started Operation Santa Claus in 1956 as a result of a request from St. Mary's Mission for toys for their children.
Spring floods denied a fishing season that year, and the drought that followed all but eliminated the big game animals available to hunt. Every bit of money the Mission had was used to pay for food to be shipped in, so it appeared there was no money to buy gifts for the children for Christmas that year.
So, Guard members would accept new or used toys, in those days, from members of the Anchorage community. In turn, they'd rehab used toys, then hand them over to Santa Claus for delivery aboard an Air Guard C123J Provider.
Throughout the years, as time and social conditions in rural Alaska changed, other villages, schools and groups have invited Operation Santa Claus to their communities. Literally, tens of thousands of Alaska's children and adults have been on the receiving end of St. Nick's good cheer.