PACE — Tuesday morning started out with heavy rains and dropping temperatures, but the weather could not keep Santa from making his rounds.
Santa flew in to Pea Ridge Elementary on an HT-18 Squadron helicopter to visit with students and staff.
“I have been here for 14 years and they have always done this for our school at Christmas,” said Pea Ridge Principal Dana Smith Fleming.
There was concern that the weather might ground the flight, but like a Christmas miracle the rain stopped at the perfect time and everything went as scheduled.
The entire student body seemed excited and they all braved the cold. Santa made the rounds to classes and visited with the children to hand out candy.
Pea Ridge fifth grade teacher Brenda Raulston keeps up with the history of the school on their website and said the event started in the late ’80s.
“The HT-18 Squadron adopted the school back then and brings Santa every year by helicopter,” Raulston said.
It is not unusual for Navy squadrons and units to “adopt” a school in the city where their base is located. That means that members of the squadron go to the school and help students with various things. It could be reading, math or mentoring a child.
“It’s a collateral duty for the persons assigned,” said Lt. Kyle O’Connell, the squadron’s public affairs officer. O’Connell is an instructor pilot at the squadron that arrived from Atsugi, Japan, where he flew the H-60R.
“I come to the school once a month and I meet with the Elite Eagles,” O’Connell said. “The Elite Eagles is a group of fifth graders that maintain a grade point average of 95 percent or better.”
O’Connell said he talks to them about what he does in the Navy, about flying, and sometimes holds science-related classes with the Eagles.