Christmas comes early for HMCS Calgary and school children

Santa Clause hands out a present to one delighted party goer. Photo by Peter Mallett, Lookout

Santa Clause hands out a present to one delighted party goer. Photo by Peter Mallett, Lookout

Peter Mallett, Staff Writer ~

There were presents to open, food, caroling and plenty of holiday cheer to go around as a group of area school children boarded HMCS Calgary for the ship’s 32nd annual Children’s Christmas Party.

Approximately 25 deserving students from six area elementary schools, along with teachers and Esquimalt Lions Club volunteers, attended the Dec. 5 party aboard the Royal Canadian Navy (RCN) frigate.

Festivities included a tour of warship led by Master Seaman Rene Pittet, a firefighting demonstration, Christmas cookie-decorating workshop, followed by lunch in the ship’s galley. HMCS Regina’s mascot Gunner even popped by for a visit with the children.

Cdr Blair Saltel, Calgary Commanding Officer, stopped by to extend warm holiday greetings to the visitors during lunch.

The party culminated with a visit from ‘Jolly Old’ Saint Nicholas himself.

Santa’s surprise visit came just after lunch; as the children began to sing Christmas carols, the jingling of his sleigh bells could be heard approaching the galley. Father Christmas didn’t arrive at the party empty handed. He brought an oversized sack of presents to distribute, much to the delight of the young party goers.

The Christmas Party included invitees from Macaulay, View Royal, Craigflower, George Jay, Tillicum and Vic West Elementary Schools. Retired firefighter and Lions Club member Daryl Driemel helped facilitate this year’s visit and said the goal was to provide a “safe and rewarding” experience aboard a RCN ship.

“It was plain to see the party had a positive impact on the students again this year,” said Driemel. “When the kids left their schools for the bus ride to the ship they were quiet and reserved; however, we noticed a big change on the way back home as they were openly engaging in conversation, laughing and smiling from ear to ear.”

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