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Vandenberg continues OKC tradition

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- Team Vandenberg will band together to serve the local community's children and treat them to a day of fun and games during the 57th annual Operation Kids Christmas, here, Dec. 5 at the Pacific Coast Club.

Operation Kids Christmas is an event where Team V hosts 200 children from around the local communities of Santa Ynez, Santa Maria and Lompoc on base. With 200 uniformed military members escorting the children, Operation Kids Christmas provides kids a wide range of recreational activities and gifts for the holidays.

"This is the biggest event for the local community that Vandenberg puts on each year to show support and give children a great Christmas," said Paulette Taylor, Operation Kids Christmas committee protocol and funds advisor.

The newly formatted program separates the 200 children into smaller groups that move through an array of activity rooms such as the arts and crafts room and game room.

"We've had a lot of positive feedback on the new format change," said Capt. Nicole London, Operation Kids Christmas committee chairperson. "It helps break the ice and get the kids to open up to their military escorts and have fun."

Since the program's conception in the 1950s, the Operation Kids Christmas committee has been passing out gifts to local children.

"We spent about $10,000 on presents this year," said Taylor. "Each kid gets a soccer ball and gender-specific toys, like a doll, jewelry making kit, hot wheels cars and action figures. They also get new backpacks filled with coloring books, crayons and other small items."

The children are given a backpack as a prize in the game room. All other presents are gift wrapped and presented to each child by a military escort prior to their departure.

"Operation Kids Christmas is not about one particular squadron, group or wing," said London. "We have someone from the Army this year and a lot of civilian support as well. Anyone who has any amount of reach on base is represented at OKC. It is a Team Vandenberg event and it's one of the most amazing things that we do on this base."