1 Wing delivers holiday smiles by helicopter to children at local hospitals

News Article / December 7, 2021 / Project number: RCAF-202112071

By 1 Wing Public Affairs

This month, the home of Canada’s tactical aviation is collaborating with three Canadian hospitals to raise spirits and funds for toys for pediatric units during the holiday season.

Operation HO HO HO started in 2003 when members of 400 Tactical Helicopter Squadron (THS) delivered toys to the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto, and has since expanded to other 1 Wing units.

Kicking things off on December 3, Santa and 1 Wing Headquarters ‘elves’ visited Kingston General Hospital via a CH146 Griffon helicopter from 438 THS, normally based in St-Hubert, Quebec. The group delivered teddy bears, purchased via donations by unit members, to roughly 30 in-patient and out-patient children.

“Op HO HO HO is a great way for us to give back to the local community,” said Lieutenant-Colonel Chung Wong, Commanding Officer of 1 Wing Headquarters. “While we hope it’s a memorable experience for the kids to see Santa arrive by helicopter, the event is incredibly rewarding for me and my colleagues.”

Later in December, 400 THS in Borden, Ontario, will host a video call with children at the Hospital for Sick Kids in Toronto (due to COVID-19 pandemic considerations), and a CH146 Griffon from 408 THS will deliver toys to the Stollery Children’s Hospital in Edmonton. Ahead of these engagements, both units raised funds among their members to purchase toys and brighten the holidays for these kids.

“Every year I very much look forward to Operation HO HO HO,” said Lieutenant-Colonel Lyle Holbrook, Commanding Officer of 400 THS. “It gets everyone in the squadron “buzzing” about the event, which brings about a real positive feeling amongst our personnel. But, by far the biggest reason I enjoy this mission, is because it just feels so good knowing that we’re part of something that gives a bit of joy to children that are unable to be home for the holidays and in most cases, could really use some positive holiday spirit.”

The initiative is truly a team effort, made possible in close coordination with hospital staff. This includes the logistics of using hospital helipads and ensuring all COVID-19 visitor protocols are followed for a safe visit.

“We’re thrilled when 1 Wing offers to escort Santa directly to the hospital,” said Kerri-Lee Bisonette, manager of the Kingston Health Sciences Centre pediatrics program. “It’s a magical experience for the kids and brings lots of positive holiday spirit to their hospital stay.”

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