Hill AFB airmen hand-deliver Christmas presents to children, teens in foster care
OGDEN — Airmen showed up in droves early Wednesday morning amid snow and icy roads to hand-deliver Christmas presents to children in foster care, a Hill Air Force Base tradition for 15 years.
Service members used their personal leave, vehicles and gas to bring joy to foster families from Draper to Logan for a pair of Santa Brigade events in Murray and Ogden, with some 900 gifts delivered in all.
“The holidays can be a hard time for children. Their faces light up with excitement when they see the airmen arrive at their homes in uniform,” Utah Foster Care CEO Mike Hamblin said in a news release.
One hundred airmen volunteered for the Santa Brigade this year. Master Sgt. Mikael Cunningham said every year there have been more and more volunteers.
The last bag of presents was picked up for delivery shortly after 9 a.m. But for Cunningham and foster care staff, there was one last stop to make: the Anderson family.
Michael and Cami Anderson are the foster parents of four children, two of whom are siblings in the midst of being adopted. Amy Wicks, lead foster-adoptive consultant of foster care in Northern Utah, says it is very difficult to place siblings together.
According to Wicks, 80% of kids come into foster care with at least one sibling. “It’s a lot less traumatic when you have a sibling with you,” she said.
While the Andersons admit it’s hard taking care of 10 children, they said it is 100% worth it because they wanted to provide a foster home willing to take siblings. The Andersons have been fostering for over two years with six children of their own.
UFC collects donations and gifts for foster families throughout the year to help support foster parents who often spend money out of their own pockets to provide a merry Christmas.
Dan Webster, director of foster parent recruitment, says the holidays can be a challenging time for children and teens in foster care — as well as the parents — and providing gifts is an important way to support them.