Horsham's Attack Wing extends holiday cheer to severely-handicapped adults: First-class festivity delights attendees, Guardsmen
By Tech. Sgt. Andria Allmond, 111th Attack Wing Public Affairs
/ Published December 14, 2015
HORSHAM AIR GUARD STATION, Pa. -- Volunteers from the 111th Attack Wing provided a generous dose of holiday cheer to nearly 60 severely-handicapped adults from the local area during a holiday party at the dining facility here Dec. 13.
The Guardsmen fashioned a full-tilt party complete with a traditional holiday dinner; music and dancing; a visit and photo with Santa Claus; and gifts provided by local Scouting units and personal donations.
"This event is a community outreach partnership with the (111th Attack Wing's) Chiefs Council and KenCrest Community Homes," Tech. Sgt. Danielle Heidrick, part of the 111th Air Operations Group commander's support staff. "The early 1980's is roughly the first time that anyone can date back this event. It started out as just a small get-together with the community hosted by the 913th Airlift Group (a Reserve unit formerly stationed here) serving some snacks - pretzels and popcorn - and small gift bags for the patients."
Heidrick said that the event evolved from a tiny gathering held in an aircraft hangar to a full-fledged festivity that now serves close to 100 handicapped patients and their caretakers.
"I started helping out back in 1995, so today marks my 20th year doing this," said Capt. Daniel Taylor, the logistics plans officer for the 111th Attack Wing. "When I began, they did this annual party and it was held in a room no bigger than a large office. We used to bring about 20 to 30 (patients in residential services) in and we would have simple snacks; we'd have Santa Claus and give them some hygiene products. But over the past 20 years, how big this has gotten and the amount of support we've received from people is unbelievable."
Taylor said that each year the guests ask volunteers if the Wing will be continuing the tradition for the next year.
So far, it appears the 111th ATKW will preserve the practice of presenting holiday cheer for those who appreciate it most - patients and Guardsmen alike.
"The way the guests look when come in, when they get to have a gift, when they get to sit with Santa Claus, when they take home a hygiene bag - these are the reasons we put our time and our hearts into this event each year," said Heidrick. "This might be the only holiday event they have to get out to attend each year. That's why we do it."
After enjoying their meals, the guests were treated to a visit by Santa Claus, who posed for pictures and distributed the donated gift bags and toys.
While the visitors waited to meet with Father Christmas, they were entertained with holiday-themed and popular music, with many attendees boogying to the tunes.
Members from the 111th Services Squadron and other units prepared for the event months prior and, with the help of other unit volunteers, served the food during the occasion.
"We not only had plenty of food for everyone here today, but we're are actually going to send them home with trays and trays of food," said Senior Master Sgt. Lauren Paul, the service superintendent of the 111th ATKW. "We started preparing for this around September in order to be sure we'd have everything that we'd need, from the food to the gift bags. Everything worked out great; and it seems like everyone is having a great time."
While the guests rejoiced in the food, music and gifts, the Guardsmen reveled in the progression of the event from a simple gathering to a substantial soiree.
"It's awesome," said Taylor. "We're truly blessed to see that we can give back; being able to watch the faces of the individuals. It gets better every year."