It is a year-round process to be the Santa Claus for the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF).
During the Christmas season Operation Santa Claus (OSC) keeps the holiday spirit alive by supplying packages to each and every deployed member of the CAF all over the world. However, to be prepared for the holiday season donations are accepted now.
“This year OSC staff will be at Major’s Hill Park, off MacKenzie Avenue on Canada Day. We would love it if people came out to see us and filled out a note supporting the troops,” said Colin Bayne, strategic outreach manager, Canadian Forces Morale and Welfare Services.
The note cards cost $2.00, with money directed to OSC. Santa’s elves will place the handwritten messages in packages mailed to Canadian troops for Christmas.
Every year from March to September OSC actively seeks and relies solely on support and donations from individuals and the private sector to create the packages. The Canada’s corporate community also plays a huge role in with the program.
“Giant Tiger stores will provide Canadians with the notecards for $2.00 each from June 29 to July 12 – if people can’t meet us on Canada Day, or they live outside Ottawa. The notes really boost the morale of the soldiers receiving them. We also understand how important it is for Canadians to have this opportunity to voice their support and show the troops how much they care,” said Bayne.
OSC fills substantial 16’x20’x8′ boxes to the brim. According to Bayne, the goal is to ensure every deployed member receives close to the same items. So, rather than receiving ‘odds and sods’ donations from individuals, the program appreciates financial donations.
“Just like Santa, we don’t want anyone to feel they didn’t get a gift equal to what their friend got. Individual dollar contributions go a long way toward making sure everyone gets an equal box,” said Bayne.
Operation Santa Claus was started in 1991 by a group of Montreal military spouses who prepared Christmas packages for members on Peacekeeping missions.
In essence, these packages were intended as a caring gesture, sending a message of gratitude to Canadian troops for their sacrifice. The packages included greeting cards from friends and family and donated items from local businesses.
OSC quickly gained popularity expanding across Canada. Spouses of serving members, local Military Family Resource Centres, bases and area region headquarters personnel all joined in to organize and co-ordinate their local OSC programs.
Although local programs were successful in providing Christmas packages, the volunteer nature of the operation restricted full use of public resources to support the exercise, and the co-ordination was at best a hit and miss proposition.
In December 1997, the Director General Morale and Welfare Services accepted Operation Santa Claus and tasked Canadian Forces Morale and Welfare Services with support of the co-ordinated operation.
If you would like to make a contribution to OSC please visit the Support Our Troops website.
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