Airmen Play Santa to Sandy Foster Children

By January 14, 2011July 18th, 2017Donor-focused, General

Marcy Heidelberger watches as her children Eva (far right), Emma and Amira (far left) open their gifts delivered by airmen from Hill Air Force Base on Dec. 15

By Brenda Fisher

Sandy Journal

They were dressed in camouflage instead of a red suit and a snowy white beard but that didn’t stop a group of about 75 volunteers from Hill Air Force Base from delivering presents to foster kids across the Ogden and Salt Lake Valley. The airmen had the chance to act as “Santas for a day” to more than 310 children and teens on Dec. 15 when they handed out presents.

“Doing foster care is so rewarding but it is a lot of hard work. It takes your whole family to raise these children and it’s so nice to see the support of the community and these men,” foster mom Marcy Heidelberger said.

The airmen are stationed with the 419th and 388th Fighter Wings divisions at Hill Air Force Base in Ogden and have been doing this service for the last four years. Senior Master Sergeant Matthew Matysik and Master Sergeant Charles Johnson delivered gifts to the Heidelberger home in Sandy to their foster daughter Amira, 15 months, and Heidelberger’s biological children Emma, 9, and Eva, 6. Heidelbergerand her husband will be adopting Amira in January and are excited to celebrating Christmas with her this year.

Matysik said his wife Julie works with the Foster Care Foundation and thought the collaboration with Hill Air Force Base would be a great way to serve the community.

“Four years ago we started looking into ways to help and we looked at the foster kids,” he said. “It’s a great opportunity to help out. I know the families definitely appreciate what we do and it’s great to see the smiles on the kids’ faces and help the families out. Foster parents take on a lot of extra work, just taking in an extra child. It’s the Christmas season and it’s a great time to help out. It makes you appreciate that you can volunteer for things like this.”

Gifts were donated through the Utah Foster Care Foundation’s Giving Tree program. The gifts came from local businesses, church groups, schools and private donations. This year the airmen handed out 940 gifts to foster children and the other children in their household.

Matysik and Johnson came through the door with stockings full of toothbrushes, knitted hats and other goodies for each of the girls. Heidelberger held Amira as she explored the stocking and her face lit up as she pulled out her newfound treasures.

“She’s too young to know what’s going on but she could tell something was different today,” Heidelberger said. “It means a lot to me that they are doing something nice for our family and Amira. She’s been through a lot this past year. She deserves a really great Christmas and it really helps us out to have the Utah Foster Care Foundation help with these gifts.”

“These guys selflessly serve our country and it’s wonderful to see them at this time of year, because it means they are home and serving our community,” she said. “They are stretching out their arms and coming into our homes and we’re very grateful for that.”

According to the Utah Foster Care Foundation, there are more than 2,800 children currently in foster care in Utah for various reasons including neglect and endangerment. These children are currently residing in more than 1,400 foster homes across Utah.

“It’s all about the kids and seeing the smiles on their faces,” Johnson said. “Matt and I have kids around this age and it’s nice to see these kids happy.”