Lakenheath Airmen hold Christmas party for special children

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Chris Stagner
  • 48th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
Royal Air Force Lakenheath Airmen partnered with the Starlight Foundation to host a Christmas party for terminally and seriously ill children Dec. 5 at the Imperial War Museum at Duxford, England.

More than 70 volunteers from the 48th Fighter Wing participated in the traditional party that finds its roots buried years deep in U.S. history in England.

"The inspiration for this party was based on the 78th Fighter Group of the U.S. Army Air Force based at RAF Duxford," said Capt. Staci Cotner, a 492nd Fighter Squadron weapons systems officer and event coordinator. "They threw a party Christmas Day in 1943 for local children and it became a tradition."

The ties established with the local community so long ago by previous Airmen are something today's Airmen are working to repeat.

"We're trying to start that tradition again in the 492nd (Fighter Squadron)," Captain Cotner said. "This is our second year doing this."

Last year's party was for disadvantaged children in the area. This year the squadron wanted to make memories for children that would last a lifetime.

"It was really amazing," said Verity Williams, Starlight Foundation Hospital Services coordinator. "It was an amazing opportunity for the kids and their families. The day was just really phenomenal."

"The base contacted (the Starlight Foundation), so I contacted Princess Alexandria Hospital," Ms. Williams said. "They didn't have a party last year, so we wanted to take care of them this year."

What started as a squadron project rapidly expanded as talk of the event spread throughout the base.

"This was one of the most gratifying experiences of my career," said Master Sgt. James Armstrong, the 48th Operations Support Squadron assistant chief controller. "It made me proud to be a part of the Air Force."

Children were treated to many activities ranging from arts and crafts to skits and caroling, but Santa Claus landing at the event in a helicopter to pass out gifts was the crowd pleaser. As children greeted Santa while he walked from the helicopter to the museum, one child asked where the reindeer and sleigh were.

Santa didn't miss a beat as he let the young boy know his sleigh was receiving repairs and the U.S. Air Force was nice enough to give him a lift to see the children.