By Laura Kaae

Fort Hood Herald

Nobody perks up a party like Kris Kringle.

Sure, children taking part in the Operational Test Command annual Christmas party in the West Fort Hood Fitness Center were having a great time coloring, getting Christmas tattoos and munching on holiday treats Saturday morning.

But the entrance of one man and his wife turned their simple smiles into wide-toothed grins.

As the sound system blared “Here Comes Santa Claus,” Mr. and Mrs. Claus made their way into the gymnasium as dozens of children gathered to hug the man of the hour.

The festivities were all part of the annual Christmas party, organized by about 20 Operational Test Command workers and 15 volunteers, all of whom wanted to make the day a special one for OTC families.

“This is all for the children,” said Lapheitta Lafontant, event coordinator and office manager of the command.

“It’s great to see the children’s faces light up,” she said, noting the party attracts between 150 to 200 children annually.

Events for children included a coloring contest, Christmas bowling and a game of pin the tail on Rudolph, as well as the opportunity to speak with Santa after he and Mrs. Claus joined the party. A booth set up in the middle of the gym contained all the letter writing tools needed for mailing letters to Santa, too.

“Dear Santa,” wrote Ann Marie Wollek, 4, with the help of her mother, Joni Wollek. “I want a doll house for Christmas.”

Ann Marie said she was asking for a place for her favorite doll to sleep in, but that she knew what the reason for the season was all about.

“The best part about Christmas is that it’s Jesus’ birthday,” she said.

Ann Marie later took that letter in one hand, and grabbed her grandpa’s arm with the other, and together the two of them dropped off the note to Santa into a big, brown mailbox.

Suzie Wollek was the proud grandma of Ann Marie, who was also helping run the booth.

“This event is a lot of fun,” said Suzie, an OTC civilian worker. “It’s always fun to see what the kids do.”

All the children who wrote letters, she said, will be sent a note back from Santa himself within the next week.

Over at one of the game booths, Arlisa and Windell Rivers were busy helping kids bowl their way to a big sack of prizes filled with toys and treats such as gumballs, stuffed animals and plastic Spider-man cups.

Arlisa retired from the Army last year, and began working at OTC in September.

“I’m new to OTC and I wanted to help out and let them know how much I appreciate them,” she said, pausing several times to help children pick out their prizes.

“I had no idea how popular our bowling booth would be!”

Col. Curtis Potts, OTC commander, said the party was to help everyone get into the spirit of Christmas.

“This is for the families,” he said, as Christmas music filled the room, and kids ran from station to station to fill goody bags with treats and prizes.

“It’s nice to be able to give back to all these families and it’s a good way to kick off the holiday season.”

Contact Laura Kaae at or call (254) 501-7464

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