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By Jennifer Parsons, Northern Sun News
For children around the world Santa Claus arrives at their homes on the eve of Dec. 24. For children in many northern First Nation communities the past two months have seen the visitor arrive early and with festive cargo.
On Dec. 13 with the mercury at minus 30, and an even lower windchill, dedicated elves loaded up Wasaya’s caravan with regular supplies and a special treat for those waiting at its destination.
“This is the last flight of our Santa Run. After today we have been in all 12 communities,” said Alana Stewart as she was boarding the mid-morning flight destined for Keewaywin First Nation.
Wasaya Airways has been doing the Santa Run since 1997. Each year the airline delivers enough turkeys for every household in their membership communities and treats for all the youngsters. An employee dressed as Santa Claus accompanies the delivery and makes a stop at the school to personally deliver his cargo.
Flights are organized through the Red Lake and Pickle Lake dispatch centres.
For 2016 flights began in the fall and in total delivered 220 turkeys donated by Maple Leaf Foods and bags of toys and nutritional snacks supplied by Smiles over Miles and the Regional Food Distribution Centre.
In Keewaywin the children’s cheers of “Santa Claus, Santa Claus” could be heard through the hallway as the day’s designated holiday front man made his way from class to class. Upon entering Grade 1-2 students sang Christmas carols in greeting. In grade 3-4 there were hugs and high fives.
“The students have been very excited. We have been talking about it all week,” said Keewaywin First Nation School Principal Balan Menon while his students greeted their guests. “They got gifts from the band which they received already so Santa coming has been quite exciting.”
The blistering cold weather kept many of the 100 students from attending class on Dec. 13, however upon hearing that Santa Claus had arrived many community members headed to the school for a quick visit and a photo.
The Santa Run is a long running tradition for Wasaya Airways with staff marking its 19th year of delivering cheer.
“Each year, the team at Wasaya looks forward to the Santa Run,” described Sharon Smith-Baxter, Manager of Communications and Marketing last week. “It takes a lot of planning and team work to make this special event happen. This year not only did Santa fly to the north but he had Mrs. Claus and a few special elves make the visits with him. The overjoyed smiles on the children’s faces make this memorable event worthwhile every year.”
Smith-Baxter also thanked the regional sponsors of the event.
“The Santa Run could not have been made possible without the generous support and donations from many organizations that helped out including the Regional Food Distribution Association, Maple Leaf Foods and Smiles over Miles.”