PENSACOLA, Fla. (NNS) -- Naval Air Station (NAS) Pensacola hosted its annual Selected Children’s Holiday Party Dec. 7 at the Morale, Welfare and Recreation (MWR) Youth Center Gym on board NAS Pensacola.
The party, sponsored by the NAS Pensacola First Class Petty Officers Association (FCPOA) and designed to provide selected Pensacola-area elementary school-aged children a holiday event including gifts, arts and crafts and lunch, has become a mainstay for the NAS Pensacola FCPOA and something extremely well-received by the more than 100 children attending.
“Events such as this – particularly during the holiday season – can serve to make sure that some children in the local community have an opportunity to enjoy the holiday season that they might not have had,” said Air Traffic Controller 1st Class Aaron Kelly, the NAS Pensacola FCPOA president. “Some of us might have come from similar backgrounds, and the opportunity to provide a bit of holiday cheer is part of who we are – both as members of this community and as Sailors.”
Kelly said the NAS Pensacola FCPOA worked closely with Carissa Bergosh, a liaison for the four Pensacola, Florida-area schools – AK Suter Elementary, Beulah Elementary, Bellview Elementary and West Pensacola Elementary – with students invited to the three-hour event.
NAS Pensacola FCPOA members, Naval Air Technical Training Center (NATTC) students and MWR Youth Center employees interacted with the grade-school aged children throughout the party, assisting them with arts and crafts projects, serving lunch and talking with party attendees.
Naval Air Station Pensacola FCPOA member Religious Programs Specialist 1st Class Robert Porter said participating in the event is something he feels was important, not only to the invited children, but to the service members and civilian employees who volunteered for the event.
“It’s a good feeling to know that you’ve made a difference in the lives of these children, if even for just a moment,” he said. “Knowing that we were able to provide some enjoyment, as well as serve as a role model to these young children, is its own reward.”
The NAS Pensacola FCPOA communicated with Bergosh to get wish lists from children selected to attend the party. Upon receipt of these, Kelly said the NAS Pensacola FCPOA asked for volunteers to sponsor individual children, using the wish lists to purchase gifts. Kelly said the NAS Pensacola FCPOA additionally arranged for lunch and coordinated the event.
The party was highlighted by the arrival of Santa Claus, portrayed by Fire & Emergency Services Gulf Coast employee Larry Cherry, on a fire truck. Cherry later distributed gifts to the children with NAS Pensacola Commanding Officer Capt. Christopher Martin, Executive Officer Cmdr. Michael Harbison and Command Master Chief Mario Rivers.
“These Sailors (the NAS Pensacola FCPOA) volunteered their time to make sure these members of our community were able to enjoy the holiday season,” Martin said. “Their involvement in our community is something I truly embrace, and I couldn’t be more proud of them stepping forward and making the place we call home better for their involvement.”
NAS Pensacola, referred to as the "Cradle of Naval Aviation," is designed to support operational and training missions of tenant commands, including Naval Aviation Schools Command (NASC), the Center for Naval Aviation Technical Training (CNATT), Marine Aviation Training Support Groups (MATSG) 21 and 23 and is the headquarters for Naval Education and Training Command (NETC).
For more news from Naval Air Station Pensacola, visit www.navy.mil/local/naspensacola/.