FORT RILEY, Kan. (WIBW) -- With winter weather making its first appearance in Kansas, cooler temperatures and the chance of snow put crews on Fort Riley in the holiday spirit.
Santa himself was on hand Wednesday to help kick off "Operation Santa Claus."
Our camera's got a behind-the-scenes look at Santa's Workshop located on the Army installation, where soldiers and volunteers work as Santa's elves to help bring some cheer to needy children.
"Operation Santa Claus" is a charitable event that helps gather Christmas gifts for the children of servicemen and women who are going through tough financial times. Kids from birth to 18 years of age are given toys or gift cards thanks to donations from across the community.
"For the past 27 years, Fort Riley has come up with a program to assist families who are facing financial difficulties to provide them with toys for their children. It’s basically for the soldiers on Fort Riley and in the surrounding Flint Hills area. Any soldier that is facing a financial difficulty can qualify for the program. The leaders of their unit will evaluate the soldiers, look at their application and they will send that application to us. We will, through donations, ensure that each soldier’s child will receive a gift to have something to open on Christmas morning. We’re going to try to get each child of every age of both genders something to have on Christmas and it’s important for their spirits, to brighten up their spirits for the holidays and it’s such a blessing. It’s a blessing to be able to do this," said Master Sergeant Donna Sue Johnson who is overseeing this year's operation.
"This shows the caring spirit and the good will associated with our local communities and our soldiers so….we want to say thank you in advance to the local communities, the citizens of those great places and our soldiers and families. Please give generously! Please know that we- your United States Army and The Big Red One- appreciate everything that you do every day for us as we try to prosecute the global war on terror and bring a little peace to the region," added Brigadier General Paul Funk at Wednesday's ribbon-cutting ceremony at Santa's Workshop on Stuart Avenue on post.
Last year, more than $60,000 worth of toys were donated, assisting 630 families throughout Fort Riley and the Central Flint Hills Region.
If you're interested in contributing to "Operation Santa Claus," you can call Santa's hotline at 785-239-6944.