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Madhatters help spread Christmas spirit

A child poses with an Airmen from the 492nd Fighter Squadron while wearing a flight helmet during the Duxford Christmas Party hosted by the 492nd FS Royal Air Force Lakenheath, England, at the Duxford Imperial War Museum Dec. 16. The children were given the opportunity to try on various pieces of equipment or gear that RAF Lakenheath pilots wear. (U.S. Air Force photo/ Airman 1st Class Christopher S. Sparks)

Two children receive gifts from Santa Claus during the Duxford Christmas Party hosted by the 492nd Fighter Squadron at Royal Air Force Lakenheath, England, at the Duxford Imperial War Museum Dec. 14. Each child who met with Santa Claus received gifts to take home for the holiday. (U.S. Air Force photo/ Airman 1st Class Christopher S. Sparks)

A child works on arts and crafts with an Airmen from the 492nd Fighter Squadron during the Duxford Christmas Party hosted by the 492nd Fighter Squadron at Royal Air Force Lakenheath, England, at the Duxford Imperial War Museum Dec. 14. There were tables for arts and crats, ring toss, a pilot dress-up photo booth and other activities for the children to participate in. (U.S. Air Force photo/ Airman 1st Class Christopher S. Sparks)

A child poses for a photo with Santa Claus during the Duxford Christmas Party hosted by the 492nd Fighter Squadron at Royal Air Force Lakenheath, England, at the Duxford Imperial War Museum Dec. 16. Over 150 children and their families attended the event from charities across England. (U.S. Air Force photo/ Airman 1st Class Christopher S. Sparks)

Attendees fill their plates with food during the Duxford Christmas Party hosted by the 492nd Fighter Squadron Royal Air Force Lakenheath, England, at the Duxford Imperial War Museum Dec. 16. The attendees were treated to a free lunch, served by Airmen from the 492nd FS volunteers and the base Chaplain. (U.S. Air Force photo/ Airman 1st Class Christopher S. Sparks)

ROYAL AIR FORCE LAKENHEATH, England -- With Christmas around the corner, Airmen from the 492nd Fighter Squadron helped spread the Christmas spirit during the Duxford Christmas Party at the Imperial War Museum, Dec. 16.

“The 492nd ‘Madhatters’ are honored to continue a long-standing tradition of American Airmen helping children and families in challenging circumstances celebrate Christmas,” said Lt. Colonel Jeremy Renken, 492nd FS commander. “This tradition goes all the way back to World War II, when the area around Duxford hosted children evacuated from towns devastated by bombardment.”
 
In attendance were approximately 80 children and their families from charities across England. These charities included Starlight Children’s Foundation, a national children’s charity that grants wishes and provides fun, laughter and entertainment to children and teenagers suffering from a serious or terminal illness in hospitals and hospices across the U.K.

"Last year my wife and I attended this amazing event and were truly moved by the experience,” said a Captain assigned to the 492nd. “Organizing the event this year and seeing the joy on the children's faces has been a truly rewarding experience for everyone in the 492nd FS. We're grateful for the opportunity to connect with such resilient and amazing families!" 
 
During the event, Airmen from the 492nd FS and volunteers served lunch, cotton candy and popcorn. They also set up tables for arts and crafts, ring toss, a pilot dress-up photo booth and other activities for the children to participate in.

For the main attraction, the children also had the opportunity to meet and receive gifts from Santa Claus.

“The partnership between the 48th Fighter Wing and the Imperial War Museum at Duxford that perpetuates this annual event is an embodiment of those shared values that reinforce our special, trans-Atlantic relationship,” said Renken.