MADISON, Wis. --
When you think of Fighter Jets, you don’t often think of Santa Claus at the same time, but for the children and families of the 115th Fighter Wing this has become a welcome norm. Since 2010, the 115th Fighter Wing Family Support group has coordinated and run the Children’s Holiday Event with the support of many volunteers and donations from external organizations. Often when the families of the 115th FW come together on the base, they are saying goodbye or hello as they prepare for or return from a deployment or training operation, and it’s an emotionally wrought time for all.
This past year, family readiness supported the Take Your Child to Work event, Money Habitudes comprehensive airman fitness programming, and Yellow Ribbon events. In addition, family readiness has supported send-offs and returns for both the 115th FW Theater Security Package deployment and 128th Air Control Squadron deployment, said Tanya Genz, the 115th Fighter Wing Airman and Family Readiness Program manager. With an event like the Children's Holiday party, we show just some of the support that we can offer to the families of the base and it is fun for everyone involved.
“My favorite thing about my job is when I am able to help make an airman or families lives a little easier,” said Genz.
"My family and I have attended the Children's Holiday event for the past seven years, it's become a bit of a family tradition," said Master Sgt. Matthew Marose, a 115th FW maintenance operations controller. This event provides my girls the opportunity to come out and see where I work, enjoy some fun games and crafting, and get their picture taken together with Santa and his jet. They get excited every year to come out and enjoy this day together."
"As military members we face challenges that bring us together as a tight-knit family. This year we took a photo with my immediate "military family" to provide a picture to one of our biggest mutual supporters to let her know she means the world to us," added Marose.
“I have been in the military for 14 years and have taken pictures several times with my shop but this was my first year taking family pictures with Santa,” said Master Sgt. Linda Koenen, a 115th FW aircrew flight equipment craftsman. “It was special because this is my daughter’s first Christmas and this is the beginning of one of our family's traditions. It was a lot of fun being with all of the other families and having her see mommy and daddy's other world. The picture was perfect! It truly display's the things that we love most, our family and our country.”
"This is the second year we have attended this event and it was fun to see my son, who was too little to remember last year, warm up to Santa a bit," said Staff Sgt. Douglas Thiering, a 115th FW aircraft structural maintenance specialist. "It was interesting to see him interact with other children near his age from my shop. My family is already looking forward to doing this again next year."
“This event has always had great attendance since I have been in the position; this year, we know we had over 275 children who had the opportunity to visit with Santa,” said Genz. “There is quite a bit of planning that is involved in putting this event together. Looking for volunteer assistance, setup, ensuring there are fun activities for the children, and working with the wing in regards to making sure Santa's jet is ready to go! The wing is very supportive of this event and helps to ensure it goes off without a hitch.”