The C-130 landed on the village’s airstrip and was warmly greeted by community members on snowmobiles. Operation Santa Claus volunteers and community members quickly off-loaded boxes from the aircraft and onto sleds tied to the snowmobiles for the mile ride to the Wales school.
“It’s a great time of year and unique way for us to get out and support Alaska citizens,” said Col. Mike Bridges, Alaska Army National Guard director of logistics. “I’ve probably been on at least 20 Operation Santa Claus trips, and each one is a special experience.”
While boxes were unpacked in the school’s gym, members of Alaska Brass, a brass and percussion ensemble from the U.S. Air Force Band of the Pacific, played festive holiday tunes while the gym filled with almost everyone from the village.
Following the festive music, a prayer of thanks was given by Alaska Air National Guard Chaplain Brian Musselman before a warm meal was served. The Wales citizens also ate ice cream sundaes while village youth performed a dance for the audience and their guests.
And then the moment everyone was waiting for: Santa and Mrs. Claus arrived.
“I enjoy visiting with the elders and veterans of the community, while they see their kids interact with Santa Claus,” Bridges said. “It’s a great time for everyone involved.”
One by one, each child had a chance to visit Santa and receive a gift. They were also given a new backpack filled with fresh fruit, books, a toothbrush and other incidentals.
“This event was incredible,” said Roxie Quick, Wales School principal. “It was a great way to show the children a lesson in sharing and about the volunteer spirit.”