Hill reservists continue tradition with Ogden special-needs class

Dec 22 2010 - 12:47am

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(KRISTIN HEINICHEN/Standard-Examiner) Tyler Chapman, who is in the special-needs program at Mound Fort Junior High School in Ogden, embraces Santa during his visit with other Hill Air Force Base reservists Tuesday.
(KRISTIN HEINICHEN/Standard-Examiner)  Hill Air Force Base reservists visit the special-needs program at Mound Fort Junior High School in Ogden on Tuesday.
(KRISTIN HEINICHEN/Standard-Examiner) Nikki Walton gets her nails painted by Staff Sgt. Michael Johnson.
(KRISTIN HEINICHEN/Standard-Examiner) Tyler Chapman, who is in the special-needs program at Mound Fort Junior High School in Ogden, embraces Santa during his visit with other Hill Air Force Base reservists Tuesday.
(KRISTIN HEINICHEN/Standard-Examiner)  Hill Air Force Base reservists visit the special-needs program at Mound Fort Junior High School in Ogden on Tuesday.
(KRISTIN HEINICHEN/Standard-Examiner) Nikki Walton gets her nails painted by Staff Sgt. Michael Johnson.

OGDEN -- Christmas is still a few days away, but Santa Claus made an early visit to a group of students at Mound Fort Junior High School anyway.

On Tuesday, reservists from Hill Air Force Base's 67th Aerial Port Squadron hosted their annual Christmas party for a class of special-needs students at Mound Fort.

About 10 reservists from Hill brought presents, treats and school supplies. They even provided their own Santa Claus for the students.

Chief Master Sgt. David Sill, who played the part of Santa Claus, said the party has become a tradition for members of the squadron, which is under the base's 419th Fighter Wing.

"This is about the 21st year that I've done this," Sill said. "And it doesn't get old. It's something I look forward to every year around this time."

Sill is set to retire from the Air Force in March after 32 years of service, but said he'll likely continue to play the part of Santa in years to come.

"This is what Christmas is all about," he said.

"You can't duplicate the feeling you get here and seeing how pure these kids are and how genuinely excited they get when they see Santa."

Mound Fort teacher Tami Youngman has taught the special-needs class for 19 years and said her students look forward to the event year after year.

"It's a great day for these kids," Youngman said.

"Their parents call and ask when the Hill Air Force Base people are coming. It's such a generous thing for them to do. People are struggling and the economy is down, but they find a way to do this every year, and we appreciate it so much."

The class is made up of eight students with significant disabilities ranging from Down syndrome to autism.

Ruby Contreras, a staff sergeant with the 67th APS, participated in the event for the third time.

"I'd been deployed to Qatar for the past little while, and the first thing I asked about when I got back was, 'What's the deal with Mound Fort?' " she said. "We get more out of this than the kids do."

Many of the 67th APS members participate in the event, but this year, the students' gifts were paid for by ACD Direct, an Ogden-based virtual call center.

"The reward for us is to come here and see the kids and see the different reactions they all have," said ACD Direct President Merrill Moore. "It's so real, so genuine. It will definitely lift your spirits."

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