Operation Holiday Hope brings holiday joy…and Santa

  • Published
  • By Natalie Stanley
  • 926th Wing

The holidays were made brighter for families of the 926th Wing during the Airman and Family Readiness Center’s Operation Holiday Hope, Dec. 5, at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada. 

With the support of a non-profit, Airmen who signed up for the event received bikes, Christmas trees and stands, toys, books, and gift cards.

“This was a great event,” said Tech. Sgt. Lydia Ruiz, 726th Operations Group, command support staff. “I’m fairly new to the wing and after the year we had it was nice to just see people and have that human interaction.”

To host an event of this magnitude required careful planning between A&FR and Kimmy McDaniel, the supporting non-profit director.   

“It was a couple of months of coordination and setting up the website, trying to figure out parameters and the needs of everyone who was registering,” said Eileen Collins, 926th WG A&FR director.

A total of 130 individual requests were identified throughout the wing.

McDaniel and her team of volunteers, drove the donations from March Air Reserve Base, California on Wednesday and wing volunteers were on hand to help them unload the gifts and Christmas trees at Nellis AFB. 

With social distancing and masks, Santa, along with his reindeer and elves, were on hand the day of the event to welcome families and take photos the kids.

Families also enjoyed Christmas cookies, provided by the 926th WG Key Spouses, hot chocolate, apple cider, holiday music, and more.

“I like how it was organized, it was small and intimate and we really enjoyed it, especially the hot chocolate,” said Ruiz.

Seeing everyone come out and just enjoy the moment was the brightest moment for Collins.

“I expected to see the families and kids, but to see people take a break from work and enjoy the hot chocolate and music and just be with each other was the best part,” Collins said.

Collins said that often with these types of programs Airmen tend to shy away from signing up because they believe others may be in greater need, but she hopes to see this change in the future.

“I’d like to change that mentality,” she said. “These are non-profits that just want to give back to the military and thank the community for all they do.”

With wing leadership’s support of these events, Collins hopes to have an even better turn out next year and give everyone a chance to be merry for the holidays.