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Airmen throw festive party for students with special needs

  • Published
  • 419th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

HILL AIR FORCE BASE, Utah – Continuing a decades-long tradition, Air Force reservists in the wing’s 67th Aerial Port Squadron suited up in elf costumes and threw a festive holiday party for students with special needs at Mound Fort Junior High today in Ogden, Utah.

The reservists bought, wrapped, hauled, and hand-delivered a hearty “sleigh-full” of gifts for the students. Santa and Mrs. Claus called each student by name to receive his or her own box of gifts, and elves chipped in to help unwrap – and generally spread Christmas cheer.

“I love watching the kids open gifts,” said special education teacher Tami Youngman. “I don’t get to be at their house on Christmas morning to experience that joy, so this party is an awesome tradition.”

Youngman has been teaching the class at Mound Fort for 30 years and has cohosted the party with the reservists every year.  

“I know time is not a renewable resource,” she said. “I’m so appreciative that the 67th took time away from their work and families to come be with us.”

Party planning begins six months in advance with fundraising and gift gathering. Airmen in the 67th APS buy items inspired by each student’s personal wish list – toys, clothes, accessories, and candy. The reservists often buy school supplies for the classroom as well.

“This sends a positive message, and my kids get to see the military in a positive light,” Youngman said.

Staff Sgt. Amy Barnes, a fourth-year participant in the event, said the children think of the reservists more as friends than military.

“They’ll put their arms around you and just be so happy to see you,” Barnes said. “The smiles on their faces bring me back every year.”