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Santa visits ARPC: Part I

Santa Claus speaks to a child during his visit to the Air Reserve Personnel Center Dec. 19, 2014, on Buckley Air Force Base, Colo. Brig. Gen. Samuel "Bo" Mahaney, ARPC commander, introduced Santa, Mrs. Claus and Sparkle the elf to excited families and children as he discussed the relationship with Santa Claus and the Air Force, which dates back decades. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Rob Hazelett)

Santa Claus speaks to a child during his visit to the Air Reserve Personnel Center Dec. 19, 2014, on Buckley Air Force Base, Colo. Brig. Gen. Samuel "Bo" Mahaney, ARPC commander, introduced Santa, Mrs. Claus and Sparkle the elf to excited families and children as he discussed the relationship with Santa Claus and the Air Force, which dates back decades. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Rob Hazelett)

Mrs. Claus presents a child a gift during her visit to the Air Reserve Personnel Center Dec. 19, 2014, on Buckley Air Force Base, Colo. Brig. Gen. Samuel "Bo" Mahaney, ARPC commander, introduced Santa Claus, Mrs. Claus and Sparkle the elf to excited families and children as he discussed the relationship with Santa Claus and the Air Force, which dates back decades. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Rob Hazelett)

Mrs. Claus presents a child a gift during her visit to the Air Reserve Personnel Center Dec. 19, 2014, on Buckley Air Force Base, Colo. Brig. Gen. Samuel "Bo" Mahaney, ARPC commander, introduced Santa Claus, Mrs. Claus and Sparkle the elf to excited families and children as he discussed the relationship with Santa Claus and the Air Force, which dates back decades. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Rob Hazelett)

Sparkle the elf paints the face of a child during her visit to the Air Reserve Personnel Center Dec. 19, 2014, on Buckley Air Force Base, Colo. Brig. Gen. Samuel "Bo" Mahaney, Air Reserve Personnel Center commander, introduced Santa Claus and Mrs. Claus, and Sparkle the elf to excited families and children as he discussed the relationship with Santa Claus and the Air Force, which dates back decades. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Rob Hazelett)

Sparkle the elf paints the face of a child during her visit to the Air Reserve Personnel Center Dec. 19, 2014, on Buckley Air Force Base, Colo. Brig. Gen. Samuel "Bo" Mahaney, Air Reserve Personnel Center commander, introduced Santa Claus and Mrs. Claus, and Sparkle the elf to excited families and children as he discussed the relationship with Santa Claus and the Air Force, which dates back decades. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Rob Hazelett)

Mrs. Claus hugs a child during her visit to the Air Reserve Personnel Center Dec. 19, 2014, on Buckley Air Force Base, Colo. Brig. Gen. Samuel "Bo" Mahaney, ARPC commander, introduced Santa Claus, Mrs. Claus and Sparkle the elf to excited families and children as he discussed the relationship with Santa Claus and the Air Force, which dates back decades. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Rob Hazelett)

Mrs. Claus hugs a child during her visit to the Air Reserve Personnel Center Dec. 19, 2014, on Buckley Air Force Base, Colo. Brig. Gen. Samuel "Bo" Mahaney, ARPC commander, introduced Santa Claus, Mrs. Claus and Sparkle the elf to excited families and children as he discussed the relationship with Santa Claus and the Air Force, which dates back decades. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Rob Hazelett)

Santa Claus high-fives a service member's child during his visit to the Air Reserve Personnel Center Dec. 19, 2014, on Buckley Air Force Base, Colo. Brig. Gen. Samuel "Bo" Mahaney, ARPC commander, introduced Santa, Mrs. Claus and Sparkle the elf to excited families and children as he discussed the relationship with Santa Claus and the Air Force, which dates back decades. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Rob Hazelett)

Santa Claus high-fives a service member's child during his visit to the Air Reserve Personnel Center Dec. 19, 2014, on Buckley Air Force Base, Colo. Brig. Gen. Samuel "Bo" Mahaney, ARPC commander, introduced Santa, Mrs. Claus and Sparkle the elf to excited families and children as he discussed the relationship with Santa Claus and the Air Force, which dates back decades. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Rob Hazelett)

BUCKLEY AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- Kids, both young and old, from the Air Reserve Personnel Center, received a huge treat when Santa, Mrs. Claus and Sparkle the Elf stopped by for a visit here, Dec. 19.

Santa's visit was two-fold, but the first order of business was to spend time with over 50 children of ARPC families and listen to their wishes.

The afternoon included music from carolers Melody Mohigh, Tech. Sgt. Rachael Lewis, Master Sgt. Thomas Metcalf, and Tech. Sgt. Matthew Faini; face painting by Sparkle the Elf; arts and crafts with Senior Airman Brittany Swanson; snacks served by Staff Sgt. Kimberly Presbery, Senior Airman Krystal Eisenhaure, and Staff Sgt. Clay Goudeau, Jr.; and most importantly a chance to sit on Santa and Mrs. Claus' laps, with Senior Airman Ashley Conklin assisting the couple with handing out presents.

The planning of ARPC's first annual children's holiday party was inspired by an event that happened one year ago. "Last year, we arranged for Santa to deliver gifts to patients at the Denver Hospital," said Tech. Sgt. Jo Anna Goodenough, casualties service team technician. "The inspiration came from seeing the children's faces light up when they saw Santa. We wanted to bring the same happiness to our children at ARPC."

From that moment, Goodenough and Tech. Sgt. Joel Johnson, education services technician, began planning this year's children's holiday party. "The best part about planning the party was the camaraderie that it created amongst coworkers," Goodenough said.

"I am certain that each of us derive a level of motivation from our family and loved ones," said Johnson. "It was right for us to take a minute as a unit and enjoy the season with those we work so hard for. They are truly why we do what we do."

"Taking care of people means taking care of the families of our military and civilians too," said Brig. Gen. Samuel "Bo" Mahaney, ARPC commander.

"We've found that by focusing on children's events, like games and bouncy castles during our summer fitness funfest, trunk or treat during Halloween, and now a children's holiday party, not only do we support our kids, but the spouses come too and we can show our support for them," Mahaney said. "Our goal is to let spouses know we are here for them any time and maybe even bring in some folks from the Airmen and Family Readiness Center at our next kid's event with information and resources that spouses want."

Eagerly waiting for Santa's arrival, the children were lined up in ARPC's foyer. When Santa, Mrs. Claus and Sparkle the Elf finally arrived, they couldn't get through the long corridor without receiving hugs from all the children.

Once inside the party room, Mahaney officially welcomed the visitors.

Like so many people do during this time of year, Mahaney had a story of his own that he shared with the children, as they sat quietly, before the festivities began.

"Let me tell you a little bit of history," Mahaney said.

"If you google Santa Claus and the United States Air Force, you will see a history going all the way back to the early 1900s," he said. "You will see Santa Claus there all along. Because we all know, before we ever invented power flight, Santa Claus had been the world premier aviator for centuries, right?"

"Yeah," one of the children called out.

"Where did the Air Force learn how to fly? It was Santa Claus! He tried to tell the Wright brothers over and over and over. Finally they got the message. They finally got it! And then, let me fast forward....there I am, flying through the darkness of Alaska, trying to get to North Pole, Alaska," Mahaney said. "There's a runway there, but there's a lot of mountains too. I was low on fuel. I tried to find the runway once. I tried to find it twice. I was about to run out of fuel and crash into a mountain somewhere. I was not willing to risk flying down into the mountains as you turn one way or another. We were going to die! Just then, I looked ahead and I saw a red glow. What was it kids?"

"Rudolph!" shouted one kid.

"Santa!" shouted another.

"It was Santa with Rudolph in front of his sleigh. And do you know what Rudolph did? He flew right in front of my airplane. And Santa pointed [hand gesture] and I saw him. And I knew I could lower down in the mountains because Rudolph and Santa were going to take me right to the runway. And we got down about a hundred feet above ground, everything opened up and there was the runway. Santa Claus had saved me and the crew," Mahaney said.

(Applause and cheering from the children.)

(The next story, "Santa visits ARPC: Part II," will feature what happened afterwards and how Santa helped the old kids too.)