55th Annual Operation Kids Christmas
By Airman First Class Veronique Henry, 30th Space Wing Public Affairs
/ Published December 09, 2013
VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif -- On a cold December morning, hundreds of Airmen in their service dress stood in line to greet children for Operation Kids Christmas.
This year was the 55th annual Operation Kids Christmas, an event put on for underprivileged children. Two-Hundred children from the local communities Lompoc, Santa Maria and Santa Ynez enjoyed various entertainment, received gifts to unwrap on Christmas Day, and had their own personal military escort to spend time with during the event. The children had the chance to learn about holiday safety and meet Sparky, Smokey the Bear and Santa Clause. In addition, the children's families received a food box filled with all the necessary items for a traditional Christmas dinner.
In order to put on this event, a year long program of preparation made Operation Kids Christmas possible. There were approximately 600 volunteers who helped fundraise throughout the year, bought and wrapped presents, escorted, and set up and tore down for the event.
"Our vision with this is just to make sure that we have an unforgettable experience for these children," said Capt. Angelica Heiderich, Operation Kids Christmas coordinator. "As soon as they get off the bus they see all the military escorts, they see different elves and what not that we have there. They shake hands and they're just excited to come inside and have a great time."
Operation Kids Christmas started in 1959 and its many anniversaries have allowed people who attended the event as children to come back and visit as adults.
"As an adult to revisit it does bring back a lot of fond memories," said Deanna Libbon, unit director for the Boys and Girls Club of Santa Maria Valley. "When I did come here as a child, it was an amazing experience for me... and to be able to work for the Boys and Girls club now and bring children that I know would appreciate it as much as I did is just a gift."