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Operation Santa Claus Spreads Holiday Cheer

  • Published
  • By Tech Sgt. Victoria Nelson
  • 157th Air Refueling Wing

PEASE AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, N.H. -- Airmen and Soldiers from New Hampshire National Guard and volunteers from State Employees’ Association of New Hampshire ensured more than 3,000 children across the Granite state will have gifts to unwrap on Christmas morning.

“This is our 63rd season,” said Phil Burt, Operation Santa Claus chairman. “It’s a full-year operation, and today is the most exciting day.”

For 63 seasons, OSC has partnered with the state Department of Health and Human Services to identify children in need.

On delivery day, the N.H. National Guard, volunteers and state employees fill Humvees, buses, box trucks and a Black Hawk helicopter, with donated gifts and transport them to the DHHS district offices.

“We’re all volunteers,” said Regina Flynn, a prevention specialist with N.H. DHHS and 26-year volunteer. “It’s a special program. I get chills when people come in and say they received gifts as a kid through Operation Santa Claus and now they’re able to give back and sponsor a child.”

This year, more than 4,000 gifts were loaded into Santa’s sleigh. Children up to age 18 received presents from their holiday wishlists including bikes, sleds, board games, winter clothing and toiletries.

“People want to shop for little kids, so getting sponsorships for teenagers can be especially challenging,” explained Flynn. “We fundraise throughout the year so we can buy gift cards to their favorite stores, and no one goes unsponsored.”

Delivery day was a success and one of the biggest turnouts in OSC history. At each district office state employees formed holiday assembly lines alongside National Guardsmen to help offload the presents for sorting and final distribution.

“You realize just how much need there is in this state,” said Airman 1st Class Emma Schmidt, a boom operator with the 157th Operations Group and first-year volunteer. “It’s really rewarding to help and to see the support going out to local communities. I’ll definitely do it again next year.”