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Santa flies with 28th OG giving gifts to families

Children tear open presents from Santa inside the Youth & Family Services Child Development Center in Rapid City, S.D., Dec. 19, 2017. This event has been hosted by the 28th Operations Group for 11 years. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Nicolas Z. Erwin)

Children tear open presents from Santa inside the Youth & Family Services Child Development Center in Rapid City, S.D., Dec. 19, 2017. This event has been hosted by the 28th Operations Group for 11 years. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Nicolas Z. Erwin)

Children and families eagerly wait for Santa to arrive at the Youth & Family Services Child Development Center in Rapid City, S.D., Dec. 19, 2017.  The 28th Operations Group collected and delivered 175 gifts for the annual toy drive. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Nicolas Z. Erwin)

Children and families eagerly wait for Santa to arrive at the Youth & Family Services Child Development Center in Rapid City, S.D., Dec. 19, 2017. The 28th Operations Group collected and delivered 175 gifts for the annual toy drive. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Nicolas Z. Erwin)

Children ask Santa questions inside the Youth & Family Services Child Development Center, in Rapid City, S.D., Dec. 19, 2017. Coordination between the YFS and 28th Operations Group began months in advance to ensure a smooth day of delivering presents and Christmas cheer to children and their families. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Nicolas Z. Erwin)

Children ask Santa questions inside the Youth & Family Services Child Development Center, in Rapid City, S.D., Dec. 19, 2017. Coordination between the YFS and 28th Operations Group began months in advance to ensure a smooth day of delivering presents and Christmas cheer to children and their families. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Nicolas Z. Erwin)

Santa Claus gives a present to a child inside the Youth & Family Services Child Development Center in Rapid City, S.D., Dec. 19, 2017. Ellsworth Airmen have participated in the toy drive for 11 consecutive years. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Nicolas Z. Erwin)

Santa Claus gives a present to a child inside the Youth & Family Services Child Development Center in Rapid City, S.D., Dec. 19, 2017. Ellsworth Airmen have participated in the toy drive for 11 consecutive years. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Nicolas Z. Erwin)

ELLSWORTH AIR FORCE BASE, S.D. --

Santa Claus has been flying with the 28th Operations Group for the last 11 years delivering Christmas gifts to children enrolled in the Youth and Family Services Child Development Center in Rapid City, S.D.

Team Ellsworth provided 175 gifts to children and families with the YFS during the Angel Tree program, Dec. 19, 2017.

“We gathered 175 gifts that we will be giving to kids enrolled in their infant and toddler program,” said Tech. Sgt. Reid Huckle, noncommissioned officer in charge of aircrew flight equipment assigned to the 28th Operations Support Squadron.

Coordination between the YFS and 28th Operations Group began months in advance to ensure a smooth day of delivering presents.

“The 28th OSS has been privileged to participate in the Angel Tree program supporting Youth and Family Services of Rapid City for the last 11 years,” said Lt. Col. Tom Bowman, the commander of the 28th OSS. “In addition to providing gifts, our Airmen have taken a more active role as participants in the annual event.” 

Once the Airmen and other volunteers gathered the gifts for all the children in the different classrooms, it was time to bring Santa to town. He went classroom to classroom delivering gifts to every child and to taking pictures.

“This is probably one of the best days of the year,” Brianna Nelson, the communication coordinator for YFS, explained while tears of joy gently streamed down her face.

The tears were from more than just kids getting presents. It was about coming together for anyone and everyone who may need help.

“Eighty-five percent of the children served [by YFS] are coming from low-income homes or single parent homes,” Nelson described. “They are from families who may not have the same benefits as others in our community. This is one day out of the year we are able to bring in folks who bring joy.”

This event demonstrates Team Ellsworth living by the core value of “service before self” by putting forth not just gifts, but time and dedication to spread holiday joy.   

“For our Airmen, I believe their commitment to service easily translates into a spirit of giving during the holidays, which is why this event has been so successful for more than a decade,” Bowman said.