Military News

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

42 years of Christmas cheer: Offut Airmen make children's holiday bright

by Senior Airman Rachel Hammes
55th Wing Public Affairs


12/15/2015 - OFFUTT AIR FORCE BASE, Neb. -- Three boys fought with foam swords in front of a giant Christmas tree, pausing occasionally to fall dramatically to the ground in a parody of injury. Presents were stacked under the tree, spreading outwards from the lit branches in tantalizingly bright holiday wrapping paper. A line of children stretched around a table, waiting while a young girl had a superhero mask painted on her face. Other children chatted and laughed at tables spread across the room, coloring pictures and eating breakfast sandwiches - and candy.

This organized cheeriness inside the Pointe at Rising View at Offutt Air Force Base, was part two of the holiday event hosted by the Reconnaissance Crews Booster Club, which began hours earlier on Saturday, Dec. 12.

The children had been up since 6 a.m., picked up by volunteer chaperones and taken to local stores to buy winter clothing and shoes. Each child was provided with a $200 budget out of Booster Club funds.

"They got to pick out whatever they wanted," said Capt. Meredith Brown, a member of the 55th Operations Group Commander's Action Group, who volunteered as a chaperone. "The chaperones got to help with sizes and things like that, but they got to choose whatever toys and clothes they wanted. I think them having the freedom to shop and have a little independence that way is cool. They get an opportunity to meet new people, too."

Following the shopping trip, the children were brought back to the Pointe at Rising View and given breakfast. In addition to the face painting, children got to participate in a magic show and receive a visit from Santa, who passed out the gifts under the tree.

"I'm having a good day," said Mariska Kassi, a 10-year-old who participated in the event. "I got to go shopping and I got to have fun with my sister. My favorite part was the actual party, because they had great food. There were activities and there was plenty of space for people to have sword fights."

This is the 42nd year the Booster Club has hosted the event, which provides support to underprivileged children selected by their schools' Head Start programs.

"When we take the kids shopping, we see that a lot of them are wearing shoes that are too small," said Capt. Sarah Cooke, a coordinator of the event and an RC-135 Rivet Joint pilot here. "For some of them, this might be the only holiday celebration they get, and this might be the only warm winter clothing they have all year round."

Cooke has helped coordinate the event for the last two years. Planning starts in January of each year, and the pace doesn't slow until after the event in December. Funding is provided by the Booster Club through the Combined Federal Campaign, while the presents under the tree are the result of a 55th Wing toy drive.

"I think this event is important because the money comes from Sarpy County, and you can visibly see that it is benefitting Sarpy County members," Cooke said. "Every year for the last 42 years we have been able to make a difference in the lives of members of our community, and I really think that speaks volumes for community involvement, community support and camaraderie at Offutt. I never have to send out volunteer requests - I just get e-mails from people interested in volunteering."

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