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Wing delivers joy, cheer

Santa Claus poses for the camera Dec. 13 during the wing’s annual Operation Holiday Open House. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Gregory Ferreira/Released)

Santa Claus poses for the camera Dec. 13 during the wing’s annual Operation Holiday Open House. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Gregory Ferreira/Released)

Volunteers prepare for the wing’s annual Operation Holiday Open House. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Gregory Ferreira/Released)

Volunteers prepare for the wing’s annual Operation Holiday Open House. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Gregory Ferreira/Released)

Santa Claus poses for the camera Dec. 13 during the wing’s annual Operation Holiday Open House. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Gregory Ferreira/Released)

Santa Claus poses for the camera Dec. 13 during the wing’s annual Operation Holiday Open House. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Gregory Ferreira/Released)

Volunteers prepare for the wing’s annual Operation Holiday Open House. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Gregory Ferreira/Released)

Volunteers prepare for the wing’s annual Operation Holiday Open House. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Gregory Ferreira/Released)

Tucson. ARIZ. -- Arizona Military members and their families were embraced by warmth and holiday cheer Dec. 13 during the wing's annual Operation Holiday Open House. More than 400 people attended the event to share joy, laughter, fun and the magic of the holiday season.

The event featured toys donated by the local community, a sugar cookie decorating station supplied by Whataburger, holiday card crafts brought by the Marana High School National Honor Society, and numerous other holiday festivities and none other than Santa himself.

"It couldn't have been a more pleasant experience," said Staff Sgt. Bryan Adams, a paralegal at the 162nd Legal Office. This was Adams' first year attending the event and brought his two sons and mother-in-law. "This was the first time my mother-in-law had ever attended a military support event and she was blown away,"

Adams' was thoroughly impressed with the event, and overjoyed watching his children visit with Santa, meet the volunteers, play with their new toys, and celebrate the season with wonderful people.

"It's always incredible to see the outpour of support from our community," said Adams. "My 5-year-old son thought it was a giant collaboration between Santa, the volunteers and the community."

More than 50 volunteers over two three days helped with the event, and toy donations were coordinated by the Military Assistance Mission with the help of the Dollar Tree, which collected donated toys at all of its Tucson store locations.

It takes a lot of work to prepare for the event, but it's so well worth it, said Barb Gavre, program manager of the Airman and Family Readiness office. It's wonderful to see the children's eyes light-up when they see Santa and the abundance of toys on the tables.

This is the sixth year the event has been hosted by the wing, and was attended by military of all branches, civilians and community members.

"I would encourage any Airman or NCO with family to attend next year, it's a wonderful experience," said Adams.