Christmas party at American Air Museum cheers local kids
DUXFORD — A red fire engine slowly rolled to a stop in front of the American Air Museum, and a bearded man in a red suit climbed out.
“Santa!” yelled a few of the 70 children, anxiously waiting inside the glass-covered entrance of the museum, an exhibit at the Imperial War Museum Duxford near Cambridge.
The white-bearded Norman Killen, a British worker on RAF Lakenheath, entered the museum only to be swarmed by the thrilled children.
The kids, invited by Suffolk County Council’s social care services, attended a Christmas party last week sponsored by the 48th Munitions Squadron and the 48th Equipment Maintenance Squadron.
Positioned between American B-25J Mitchell and B-17G Flying Fortress bombers, the two-hour party included free food and drinks, balloons, face paintings and perhaps the biggest treat for the children, a gift handed to them by Santa.
Eight-year-old Daniel Ventress patiently sat in front of Santa as his friends received their gifts, which were donated by the two squadron communities on Lakenheath. Daniel’s was one of the last names to be called.
“Wicked,” he said out loud when he ripped away the green wrapping paper to see his present — a remote controlled car.
He quickly opened the car’s package at a nearby table where his friends gathered around him.
“You got a better present than me,” observed a boy standing next to him.
“I know, it’s really cool,” Daniel said.
Skye Marsh, 8, paraded around the museum, filled with American aircraft of yesteryear, with her new My Little Pony gift.
“It’ll be nice to play with,” said Skye, adding that she enjoyed the food and company of the airmen at the party.
About 25 airmen volunteered their time at the Tuesday night party and almost 50 helped out with the total effort, said Tech. Sgt. Jason Ray, a 48th Munitions Squadron airman who assisted in the coordination of the event.
“It gives us a chance to interact with the local community and set a good image for the Air Force,” Ray said.
Ray, who has a 5-year-old daughter, said the party was just for the kids.
“Anytime you can get kids together with other kids, it’s a great thing. Adults can be a little intimidating for them sometimes. These kids together are having a fun time socializing,” he said.
This was the second year in a row this sort of party was held at the Duxford museum. But according to Barbara Murfitt, who works at the Suffolk council, American airmen have provided donations to local children for at least 10 years.
“It’s brilliant,” Murfitt said about the Americans’ generosity, adding that holding the party at Duxford was a good idea.
“I think it gives these children the opportunity to come somewhere where they don’t normally come to and have a party,” she said.