Written by Petty Officer 1st Class Richard Quintana.
As December arrives and the darkest part of the year is upon us, SPAR’s crew conducted aids to navigation work, vocational outreach and spread holiday cheer throughout south Kodiak.
SPAR has made it a mission to take the yearly trip in December to conduct aids to navigation operations near Old Harbor and visit its residents. Traditionally, SPAR has brought Santa Claus and a few elves to deliver Christmas gifts to the students of Old Harbor School during this deployment in an event known as Santa to the Villages as well as provide services that fall under the marine safety umbrella.
While underway from Kodiak, the crew worked five buoys and five shore aids at Old Harbor, Geese Channel and Moser Bay to ensure the safety of mariners navigating these waters. Members of Marine Safety Detachment Kodiak came along and conducted facility inspections to ensure compliance with federal regulations and the crew of the SPAR hosted students of varying ages aboard the ship for a tour and some vocational experience. While touring the vessel the students learned about boat handling and navigation on the bridge, food preparation and some holiday cupcake decoration in the galley, first aid training in sick bay and welding in the damage control locker.
The moment everyone was waiting for was the arrival of Santa and his elves. During this event it was all hands on deck as crewmembers carried and delivered gifts, cookies and snacks to the school as they marched through town. The children were bursting with happiness to see members of SPAR with their hands full and big red sacks full of gifts, making their way through the icy and rugged road that leads to the school.
The crew received a warm welcome at the Old Harbor School. The students and staff had decorated the gym with holiday decorations and filled the air with carols for all to enjoy. As the anxious students sat in their chairs, Santa Claus made his grand entrance. He had a chance to speak with the students and, with the help of his elves, presented individual gifts to every child in the village. Smiles and cheers of excitement filled the gym as the elves called each student’s name individually and they were invited to sit on Santa’s lap to receive their gift.
The children received hats, gloves and scarves donated to the Spouses Association of Kodiak, as well as fruit and books. The spouses association works throughout the year to raise the funds, gather the gifts and wrap everything. They have been supporting Santa’s visits to all the villages of Kodiak Island by cutter and helicopter for more than 30 years. After Santa presented more than 60 presents, and each student had a chance to open and enjoy their gift. The crew was invited for a very delicious school lunch and sat with the students and staff to exchange pleasant conversation.
This annual event is not just for the children; it also warms the hearts of the local adults, many of whom met Santa when they were young, and the crewmembers aboard the SPAR who will regard it highly among their important missions for years to come.