MARINE CORPS AIR GROUND COMBAT CENTER TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. --
Laughter rang out at the sight of grown Marines whispering what they wanted for Christmas in Santa’s ear during the 8th annual Single Marine Program Shopping Night at the Marine Corps Exchange Dec. 1.
The event featured food, a Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 Tournament 2, and entertainment by Jiffy the Clown. Santa’s chair was also set up for children to request Christmas gifts.
Items were on sale and prizes for the raffle drawings were placed around the food table for everyone to see. The first drawing was held at 4:30 p.m. and patrons could register until the last drawing at 8 p.m. Prizes for the raffles included video games and gift certificates.
“This event is good for families and all the Marines here,” said Staff Sgt. Jasper Key, an instructor for the Marine Corps Communications-Electronics School, who attended the event. “It is especially good for the younger Marines at the school who are spending their first holiday season away from their families by giving them a family atmosphere.”
Jiffy the Clown roamed around the exchange making balloon animals for children and Marines alike.
Soon after the start of the event, the exchange announced Santa was parking his sleigh and would be in front of Sights and Sounds, the electronics section of the store, to pose for pictures and pass out Xbox T-shirts.
By the time Santa arrived at his chair, there was a long line of parents and eager children.
Once the line of families visiting Santa died down, Marines began to line up to have their pictures taken with him. Although many Marines were bigger and taller than Santa, he still had the Marines sit on his lap.
“The new generation can’t let the ‘kidness’ in them go,” said Sgt. Kristopher Mendoza, the communications chief for Battery M, 3rd Battalion, 11th Marine Regiment, about the Marines sitting on Santa’s lap.
While some Marines visited Santa, others took part in a scavenger hunt. All they had to do for the hunt was find one of the six red Semper Fi Teddy Bears scattered throughout the store to receive gift cards and keep the bears they found.
After the scavenger hunt, the Call of Duty tournament kicked off at the back of Sights and Sounds. More than 60 Marines participated in the tournament and competed for the grand prize – a brand new Xbox 360.
“The tournament and raffle drawings were great ideas,” said Lance Cpl. David Powell, a supply administrator with Headquarters and Service Company, 1st Tank Battalion. The tournament is doing insanely well. The game was just released and is so popular that the sign-up was full in 20 minutes, Powell said.
During the event, Marines took advantage of the free gift wrapping service available near the barbershop.
Marines and families left the Shopping Night with gifts in hand, pockets a little lighter and knowing Santa had come to town and will be back later this month.