By: Tyler Marr
Giving Rudolf and the other reindeer a rest before their big night, Santa Claus climbed aboard a plane to bring some early holiday joy to a number of northern communities.
Armed with jingle bells and a bag packed with gifts, St. Nick elicited nothing but smiles from youth in Fond du Lac, Black Lake, Stony Rapids, and Wollaston Lake over the past two days.
For Santa, the trip is all about delivering some smiles and holiday cheer to the children.
“It is the right thing to do,” Mr. Claus said. “The magic and the spirit of Christmas and making everybody feel like they are part of humanity. That is what Christmas is. You all get that feeling at Christmas time, it is a special feeling, I think.”
The excursion is part of the annual Transwest Air Santa Claus Takes Flight initiative to bring the jolly gift-giver to communities they serve in an effort to recognize their support.
“This one is such a touchy feel-good thing,” Patty Hughes, who works with Transwest Air and was a helpful elf during the event said. “It is a lot of work but it is so worth it to see the kids and know the difference we are making in their lives there.”
For most children, sitting on Santa’s knee, gazing into his eyes and telling him what they want for Christmas can be as simple as a trip to the mall or a local holiday gathering.
But for many of these fly-in communities, the event is the only time over the holidays several kids have the chance to do so.
This could be seen not only in the wide blinking eyes and calm chaos which overcame students as Santa Claus happily sauntered into the schools but in how they prepare for St. Nick’s arrival.
Each had their foyers or gymnasiums thoroughly covered with holiday decorations rivalling that of Rockefeller Center.
In Fond du Lac, a makeshift fireplace with a large tree and comfy chair sat waiting for Santa’s arrival. Hundreds of Kindergarten to Grade 5 students stood with patient exuberance in line for their moment to tell him thier Christmas wish.
Vice Principal at Father Gamache Memorial School Dorothy Olson said the children “are always looking forward to it.”
“It brings everything out. Everything is about the kids…make the kids smile and put a little cry on the face for some,” she said with a laugh.
Black Lake pulled out all the stops, as countless blowup ornaments, handcrafted mountains and paper ice walls surrounded a winter wonderland, fireplace and chair.
Principal Steven Thatcher of Father Porte Memorial Dene School in Black Lake spoke to the impact and togetherness the visit has on the community. He recalled previous years when the line of children and their parents wound down an entire wing of the school and out the door.
“One year we were here from one o’clock to six. It is a big event and it is a yearly event and everybody knows he is coming and they enjoy it,” he said. “It is special for the community.”
Each child, after having their moment with the big man, was ushered along down a line of elves and received small gifts of candy canes, books, art kits and mandarin oranges.
For many, this may be some of the only gifts they receive this season, but the need for presents is quickly eclipsed once they lay eyes on the gleeful man in the big red suit.
This was the 17th rendition of the Santa Claus Run, which is backed heavily by Transwest Air alongside community partners like Herald’s Grocers and the Northern Store. Nearly 1,600 children are served during the trip.
Though Santa could not make it to Uranium City, a package of gifts was sent to remind the children Santa is always looking after them.
Santa Claus had one simple final message for everyone that day: “Try to always be good to yourself and others. Remember that giving is way more important than receiving. That is why Santa does it.”