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Holiday event benefits children

Justin Tardiff | Monday, December 5, 2005

Armed with popsicle sticks and face paint, members of the Arnold Air Society, the service organization associated with Notre Dame Air Force ROTC, and Silver Wings, its civilian counterpart, set about to help 150 local underprivileged children celebrate the holidays in Angela Athletic Facility at Saint Mary’s Saturday.

Christmas music blared from the sound system as children lined up to sit on Santa’s knee and receive presents donated through the Toys for Tots program. Others sat at tables making Christmas crafts with the help of Notre Dame and Saint Mary’s volunteers.

The event was Arnold Air Society and Silver Wings’ annual Field Day, an occasion that takes months to plan, according to Arnold Air Society director of operations Ashley Shelton.

“The main goal is just to throw a huge Christmas party for kids who might not otherwise get to celebrate in this way,” Shelton said.

Shelton said the children in attendance came from a variety of community centers throughout the South Bend area, including Madison Center, Logan Center and the Boys and Girls Club of South Bend. For the first time this year, children who live in the University Village were also invited.

Field Day is tailored specifically for children, but Shelton said many parents, such as women from St. Margaret’s House, also attended.

A junior, Shelton said she has participated in Field Day for the past three years and estimated the program has existed for seven years.

“It is a great opportunity for us as college students to get involved with these kids,” Shelton said. “We end up learning a lot from them.”

In past years, Field Day was held at the South Bend Armory. However, Saint Mary’s provided a more accessible location for volunteers coming from Notre Dame, Shelton said. The College also allowed Arnold Air Society and Silver Wings to use Angela free of charge.

The community also rallied around the children and the event, Shelton said. Papa John’s sold the group dozens of pizzas at a discounted price, and the toys distributed were collected by the Marine Corps through the Toys for Tots program.

Silver Wings secretary Elizabeth Clifton, who has volunteered at Field Day for the past three years, said the organizations succeeded in their goal of helping as many underprivileged kids as possible.

“One of the kids came up to me afterwards and was like, ‘This is the best field trip ever,'” Clifton said.

Shelton said Arnold Air Society and Silver Wings members who are responsible for the event continue to get better at carrying it out each year, and Field Day will likely continue for many years to come.

“It was wonderful,” Shelton said. “We a had a really great time with the kids. I think everyone went home happy.”