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Thule Airmen bring Julemand to children

QAANAAQ, Greenland -- Children here dance around the Christmas tree just before opening gifts at the Julemand Celebration on Dec. 20.  The gifts were provided by the Airmen of Thule Air Base.  (U.S. Air Force photo by 1st Lt. Jennifer Tribble)

QAANAAQ, Greenland -- Children here dance around the Christmas tree just before opening gifts at the Julemand Celebration on Dec. 20. The gifts were provided by the Airmen of Thule Air Base. (U.S. Air Force photo by 1st Lt. Jennifer Tribble)

QAANAAQ, Greenland -- Santa Claus reads a book presented to the Airmen of Thule Air Base by children here.  (U.S. Air Force photo by 1st Lt. Jennifer Tribble)

QAANAAQ, Greenland -- Santa Claus reads a book presented to the Airmen of Thule Air Base by children here. (U.S. Air Force photo by 1st Lt. Jennifer Tribble)

THULE AIR BASE, Greenland (AFPN) -- Airmen from here shared some Christmas cheer during a gift exchange with about 260 children in Qaanaaq, a city roughly 75 miles from here.

The Airmen raised almost $15,000 for Operation Julemand, an annual base fundraiser named after the Danish word for Santa Claus.

“We’re proud to be partners with the Qaanaaq community and are honored to be a part of this special holiday event,” said Col. John Haven, 821st Air Base Group commander.

The celebration began with the arrival of Santa Claus on a dog sled, followed by traditional dancing around a Christmas tree, the singing of holiday songs and the presentation of gifts.

“Seeing the children dancing around the tree and hearing them sing in their native tongue was such an exciting experience,” said Chaplain (Capt.) Dave DePinho, president of the Operation Julemand committee.

The committee, which oversees the program, raises money to purchase gifts for the children and also to provide a cash donation to various international charities on behalf of the base.

Donations were received through coin drops at various base locations, from individuals and during an annual festival.

“We had a really good response with fundraising this year,” said Danish Liaison Office Chief Petty Officer Lars Iverson.

The year-long fundraiser begins every June, Chaplain DePinho said.

Before the gifts reach the children of Qaanaaq, the Thule Danish Liaison Office must have them brought to the base by ship during the short summer port season. Around November, the gifts are individually wrapped and labeled. Just weeks before Christmas, the presents are flown to the Qaanaaq municipality courtesy of Air Greenland, which frequently services the area.

Special care goes into each gift, which is personalized and individually presented to a specific child. In fact, the Danish Liaison Office spends much of the Christmas season making a list and checking it twice.

“We get the names of the children from the community and save (the list) in a database. Then we cross reference the current list with the previous year’s list to make sure we don’t miss anybody,” Petty Officer Iverson said. “There’s a lot of work in it, but it’s worth it for the children.”

Bringing Christmas to the children of Greenland also brought the gift of holiday cheer and the internal rewards of generosity to people here, said Colonel Haven.

“Now, more than ever, I know that the spirit of Christmas is easiest seen on the face of a child,” he said. (Courtesy of Air Force Space Command News Service)

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