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Ellsworth members support Angel Tree program

A child enrolled in the Youth and Family Services child care center smiles in excitement while seeing Santa Dec. 17, 2009, in Rapid City, S.D. This is the third time Santa, Mrs. Claus and Airmen from Ellsworth Air Force Base, S.D., bought, wrapped and delivered gifts for every child at the center. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Corey Hook)

A child enrolled in the Youth and Family Services child care center smiles in excitement while seeing Santa Dec. 17, 2009, in Rapid City, S.D. This is the third time Santa, Mrs. Claus and Airmen from Ellsworth Air Force Base, S.D., bought, wrapped and delivered gifts for every child at the center. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Corey Hook)

Santa and Mrs. Claus arrive at the Youth and Family Services child care center Dec. 17, 2009, in Rapid City, S.D. Santa, also known as Master Sgt. Cary Loeffler, the 28th Operations Support Squadron aircrew fight equipment assistant superintendent, and his wife began the Angel Tree program at Ellsworth Air Force Base, S.D., by introducing a traveling tree throughout the 28th OSS. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Corey Hook)

Santa and Mrs. Claus arrive at the Youth and Family Services child care center Dec. 17, 2009, in Rapid City, S.D. Santa, also known as Master Sgt. Cary Loeffler, the 28th Operations Support Squadron aircrew fight equipment assistant superintendent, and his wife began the Angel Tree program at Ellsworth Air Force Base, S.D., by introducing a traveling tree throughout the 28th OSS. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Corey Hook)

A child smiles in excitement as he sees presents, Santa and Mrs. Claus at the Youth and Family Services child care center Dec. 17, 2009, in Rapid City, S.D. This is the third time Santa, Mrs. Claus and Airmen from Ellsworth Air Force Base, S.D., bought, wrapped and delivered gifts for every child at the center. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Corey Hook)

A child smiles in excitement as he sees presents, Santa and Mrs. Claus at the Youth and Family Services child care center Dec. 17, 2009, in Rapid City, S.D. This is the third time Santa, Mrs. Claus and Airmen from Ellsworth Air Force Base, S.D., bought, wrapped and delivered gifts for every child at the center. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Corey Hook)

Children of the Youth and Family Services child care center wait for Santa and Mrs. Claus' arrival Dec. 17, 2009, in Rapid City, S.D. This is the third time Santa, Mrs. Claus and Airmen from Ellsworth Air Force Base, S.D., bought, wrapped and delivered gifts for every child at the center. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Corey Hook)

Children of the Youth and Family Services child care center wait for Santa and Mrs. Claus' arrival Dec. 17, 2009, in Rapid City, S.D. This is the third time Santa, Mrs. Claus and Airmen from Ellsworth Air Force Base, S.D., bought, wrapped and delivered gifts for every child at the center. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Corey Hook)

Children of the Youth and Family Services child care center greet Santa Dec. 17, 2009, in Rapid City, S.D. Santa, also known as Master Sgt. Cary Loeffler, the 28th Operations Support Squadron aircrew fight equipment assistant superintendent, and his wife began the Angel Tree program at Ellsworth Air Force Base, S.D., by introducing a traveling tree throughout the 28th OSS. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Corey Hook)

Children of the Youth and Family Services child care center greet Santa Dec. 17, 2009, in Rapid City, S.D. Santa, also known as Master Sgt. Cary Loeffler, the 28th Operations Support Squadron aircrew fight equipment assistant superintendent, and his wife began the Angel Tree program at Ellsworth Air Force Base, S.D., by introducing a traveling tree throughout the 28th OSS. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Corey Hook)

Children receive presents at the Youth and Family Services child care center Dec. 17, 2009, in Rapid City, S.D. The child care staff provided the names and ages of infants, toddlers and preschool-aged children in their program to 28th Operations Group members from Ellsworth Air Force Base, S.D., who then purchased and wrapped gifts for every child. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Corey Hook)

Children receive presents at the Youth and Family Services child care center Dec. 17, 2009, in Rapid City, S.D. The child care staff provided the names and ages of infants, toddlers and preschool-aged children in their program to 28th Operations Group members from Ellsworth Air Force Base, S.D., who then purchased and wrapped gifts for every child. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Corey Hook)

ELLSWORTH AIR FORCE BASE, S.D. (AFNS) -- Rows of excited children watched and waited for Santa and Mrs. Claus' arrival on a B-1B Lancer float at the Youth and Family Services child care center in Rapid City, S.D.

The float was sponsored by the 28th Operations Support Squadron staff as part of the Angel Tree gift program, and after arriving at the center, Santa, Mrs. Claus and Ellsworth Air Force Base members worked their way from classroom to classroom personally delivering gifts to children.

"For many of these children, the gifts that we provide are the only gifts they will receive this Christmas," said Tech. Sgt. Justin Cooke, the 28th Operations Support Squadron unit deployment manager. "It helps to keep them and their families hopeful that better times are coming. The excitement the children have and seeing how they interact with Santa as they receive their gift is really something great to watch." 

The Angel Tree gift program's goal is to make a difference in the community and enlighten each student during the holiday season.

"We have one child here at YFS that has been here since the first year Ellsworth members came to the base to deliver presents," said Steve Merrill, the Youth and Family Services development director. "He has brought the gift he received the first year in every day since then and is actually here today."

An estimated 160 kids received gifts from the program this year.

"Hats off to the people at Ellsworth AFB to not only continue their mission home and abroad, but also being able to make a difference with so many children throughout the Black Hills," Mr. Merrill said. "They really come up big for the community every year."

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