A Jolly Good Time

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Santa Claus hands out copies of “’Twas the Night Before Christmas” to children and talks with them about Christmas during Story Time with Santa Dec. 23 at USO Fort Riley. As part of the 10 days of Jolly Days at USO Fort Riley, children and parents alike nestled in on the floor to listen to the story read aloud to them by Santa Claus. The room was filled with wide-eyed and excited kids as they laughed and answered Santa each time he made a joke or asked a question. After, each child lined up to receive a copy of the book and meet with Santa Claus. Some children posed for pictures while others quietly handed Santa a letter, which he took and tucked away into his coat and promised to read it soon.

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Shauna Laauwe, wife of Lt. Col. Bradley Laauwe, 1st Squadron, 4th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, and her daughter, Shannon, create 3-D paper snowflakes during the USO Fort Riley Jolly Days Dec. 28.

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Crystal Tinkey, USO Fort Riley center operations and program manager, instructs Chase Caywood, son of Maj. Brad Caywood, from the Kansas State University ROTC program, on how to create a 3-D paper snowflake during the USO Fort Riley’s Jolly Days Dec. 28.

Families celebrate with almost 2 weeks of Jolly Days at USO Fort Riley

Staff and volunteers of USO Fort Riley celebrated the holidays with Soldiers and their families through 10 days of fun with ’Tis the Season: USO Jolly Days Dec. 16 to Dec. 25, 2016, at the center, 6918 Trooper Drive.

Each day featured differ¬ent activities, including gift wrapping stations, Story Time with Santa, tacky sweater con¬tests, holiday card making and more. A hot chocolate bar was also available every day to let guests craft their own drink with different flavors, candies and other treats.

Jolly Days was about creating family time and giving service members and their families something to do out¬side the home, said Crystal Tinkey, center operations and programs manager for USO Fort Riley. The first event built off one monthly USO Unplugged: Family Game Night and introduced families to the activities to come.

“Over the block leave we know that some families don’t go home,” Tinkey said. “We have our service members that still have to work and some service members and families that can’t go home, like my first year here, I couldn’t go home, so the kids are out of school, they get stir crazy, it’s Christmas break, so a little ac¬tivity, a little something every day for the children and the families to enjoy.”

At some events, such as Story Time with Santa, chil¬dren who visited received goodies to take home, like a copy of the book “’Twas the Night Before Christmas.”

Amanda Orduno, wife of Chief Warrant Officer 2 Odilon Orduno, 1st Squad¬ron, 6th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Combat Aviation Brigade, 1st Infantry Division, at¬tended Story Time with Santa Dec. 23, 2016, alongside her two daughters and husband. She said they attended because she wanted to keep the magic of Christmas alive for as long as she could for her daughters and appreciated all the differ¬ent activities available through Jolly Days.

“I think it’s pretty cool,” Orduno said. “I think it’s amazing that they offer these programs free of charge for the families here … We don’t live on post, so it’s a rare occa¬sion that we visit post, but ac¬tivities like this are what bring us back.”

Jolly Days wrapped up on Dec. 25, 2016, with a Christmas party and gifts for families who visited. The families were greeted by volunteers who spent the afternoon celebrating the holiday with them.

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