News: Santa Claus opens village for MCB Hawaii
Story by Kristen Wong
MARINE CORPS BASE HAWAII - The Hawaii winter rain cleared in time for Marine Corps Base Hawaii families to visit Santa’s Village at Kulia Youth Center, Dec. 14, 2013.
As they waited in line first thing in the morning, the families suddenly turned their attention to the road as the jolly man in red and white arrived in a vintage red fire truck. As Santa hopped off the truck and greeted the children, Marine Corps Community Services staff and MCB Hawaii volunteers opened the gates and the festivities began.
“We were able to provide some new activities that we think were a wonderful addition (that) we’d like to see at other events as well,” said Morgan Poppler, the assistant director of Youth Activities at Kulia Youth Center.
A total of 1,350 attendees scattered across the lawn and the interior of Kulia Youth Center.
While adults browsed resource tables featuring several organizations, the volunteers were stationed at various booths, offering many activities for the children.
At one booth, Lauren Harrison, 11, liberally applied turquoise frosting and sprinkles to her gingerbread cookie.
“We come every year,” said her mother, Dawn. “It’s really nice, the kids really enjoy it. They like to have their picture taken with Santa.”
Ella Parker, 9, spent part of the event examining lizards in dark and light shades of green as they sat on her arm. Children could hold and look at various species in glass tanks.
Kelina Shipes, 9, and her best friend, Emily Rogers, 7, each got a special kiss from a parrot and a photo opportunity with multicolored birds of all shapes and sizes.
“I like the birds and the (other) animals,” Shipes said.
While some children waited in line to get their very own balloon art, others tried their luck at various games.
China Rosales, a caregiver at Kupulau Child Development Center, volunteered at a game in which children are blindfolded and attempt to place a red “nose” in just the right spot on a picture of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.
“I like (volunteering at Santa’s Village) because it definitely makes the kids happy,” Rosales said. “It’s nice to see the kids smiling.”
One big part of the holiday season for many children isn’t available on Oahu — snow. Instead coordinators improvised, adding water to a special powder, forming fluffy, artificial snow for outdoor play time. But the activities did not stop there.
With extra encouragement from his father, Timothy Craig, 7, reached the peak of a large, inflatable mountain face while strapped into a harness. It was his first time trying the activity and he said it was the best part of Santa’s Village.
Rudolph and Frosty the Snowman made their rounds at the event, greeting the children and posing for numerous photo opportunities. But the line for photos was the longest for Santa Claus, surrounded by heaps of presents and holiday decor.
As families departed the village, many took home a keepsake from the event: a small ornament bearing their names.
“All in all, we think it was a success and we hope the families enjoyed it,” Poppler said.
Though the morning excitement was over, the children returned home with souvenirs, snacks and new holiday memories, well before Christmas Day.