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28th Operations Group provides gifts to children with Angel Tree program

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Brittany Kenney
  • 28th Bomb Wing Public Affairs

Santa and Mrs. Claus - along with help from the 28th Operations Group - delivered holiday gifts to children at the Youth and Family Services Child Development Center in Rapid City, South Dakota, Dec. 11, 2023.

Santa has been flying with the 28th OG for the past 17 years as part of the Angel Tree gift program. This event provides an opportunity for Airmen to give back to the community, as well as strengthen the relationship Ellsworth has with Rapid City and the surrounding areas.

“This event is one of the most anticipated days at Youth & Family Services Child Development Center, not only by the children, but by the staff as well,” said Connie Olson, chief development officer at YFS CDC. “Seeing the care and generosity the Airmen put into selecting gifts for the children is so heartwarming, and watching the children light up when they get that first glimpse of Santa is just amazing.”

In a joint effort between the 28th OG, 28th Operations Support Squadron, 34th and 37th Bomb Squadrons, 28th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, and the Rapid City U.S. Postal Service, over 220 gifts were purchased to be hand-delivered to children at the YFS CDC.

The idea of a toy drive started among members of the 28th OSS who wanted to bring holiday cheer to the community and make a difference in the lives of children and families. That spirit of giving soon spread to the squadrons making up the 28th OG, allowing active-duty members and their families to contribute to the growing pile of presents for the children.

Staff Sgt. Kayleigh Jacobs, noncommissioned officer in charge of aircrew flight equipment assigned to the 28th OSS, volunteered to be Mrs. Claus for the day.

“This program will always hold a special spot in my heart,” said Jacobs. “My favorite part is sitting with all the young children and helping them open their presents. Their smiles make all the prep work worth it!”

After gathering the children into their respective classrooms, Santa, Mrs. Claus, and the Airmen volunteers went room to room with a bag of gifts and called each child by name to receive a present and candy cane.

“The best part of this event is when Santa counts to three, which signals to the children that they can open their gifts,” said Olson. “There is so much excitement, joy, and pure holiday magic wrapped up in those three short seconds. The children are bursting to open their gifts, and the Airmen in attendance look almost as eager as the kids. It always amazes me how often I get to hear, ‘This is exactly what I wanted!’”