Annual Raider Holiday Cheer event provides gift bags to Airmen

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Brittany Kenney
  • 28th Bomb Wing Public Affairs
Volunteers from the installation and the local community gathered for the annual Raider Holiday Cheer 2023 event at Ellsworth Air Force Base, South Dakota, Dec. 6, 2023.

Active service members, veterans, military spouses, and members of the American Red Cross assembled gift bags and holiday cards which were then delivered to Airmen living in the dormitories on base.

Stations were set up around the Chapel Activity Center allowing volunteers to easily fill gift bags with donated items including macaroni and cheese, cups of soup, granola bars, hot chocolate, oatmeal and more. Additionally, a bag of cookies and a homemade card from the local elementary school were included with each bundle.

Raider Holiday Cheer, led by Kelly Oakley, the base commander’s spouse, and Ellsworth Key Spouse program mentor, allowed volunteers to give back to the Airmen and allow them to begin the holiday season with a merry spirit.

“The purpose of this event is to spread a little bit of holiday cheer, especially to the Airmen in the dorms who may be away from home and unable to see family,” said Oakley. “We want to show them that we see them, and we appreciate what they do.”

Once the bags were assembled, volunteers worked alongside Airmen dorm leaders to distribute them to 9 dormitory buildings on base. A bag was left for each Airman on their door to find when they returned home from work.

“It was exciting to see the bag when I got back to my room,” said Airman 1st Class Diego Espinosa, 28th Civil Engineering Squadron electrical systems apprentice. “For those of us who live in the dorms, a gift like this gives us a little light at the end of our day.”

After delivering around 700 gift bags to the dormitories, Oakley said that the remaining bags would be distributed to other units on base.

“We’ve had airmen reach out who were so appreciative,” said Oakley. “Maybe they were down to their last snack food and just needed something, or they’ll be in tears after opening a card from an elementary school child. They miss being home, and these gifts give them a little taste of that.”