Operation Santa Carnival FAQ

We are actively planning Operation Santa 2023 and really need sponsors and volunteers  - if you would like to help shoot an email to kristihilbert@heroessupportingheroes.org. 

Please READ all information BEFORE registering - military service is verified by local branch installations.   

Q:  What is this Event?

A:   Operation Santa is a higher end event for all actively serving and veteran (including Guard & Reserve) families.  All branches of service are eligible to attend.  There are amusement quality games, crafts,  activites, and so much more.  Visit with the Disney Princesses, Darth Vader and other characters & mascots,  have your caricature made,  or a creation made by our balloon twisters, get your face painted or get an airbrush tatoo.  Take a spin on the North Pole Speedway and see who has the stamina to win the Reindeer Race.   Pick out a book at Mrs. Claus' Book Nook.   Swing by the concession stand and grab a hot dog, soft pretzel, nachos, snowcone, popcorn or cotton candy. Visit the Sweet Shoppe, the Toddler Elf Village, make some magic reindeer food and write your letter to Santa.  And don't forget to visit the big man himself where you will receive your special gifts bought just for you -  take them over ot the "Magic Carpet" to open and you might even get to meet the civilian family who purchased the gifts.  

EVERYTHING is included in the Admission price.  There is not a single thing in the event that requires a purchase once inside.   We promise you, you will receive your Admission value many, many, many times over.  

All in all, Operation Santa is often described as the Must Not Miss Event of the year.  We even have families who PCS out to other installations, drive hours back just to attend.   Don't miss it - Register Today! 

Q:  When & Where is the Event? Do The Event Dates Differ?

A:   December 9th & 16th Location will be given to all confirmed registrants only (Robinson Area.)  We do not publicly release the address for security purposes. It will be emailed to you when the time slot registration link is sent.  Families will be allowed to register for a specific 2 hour session to attend the event between 9am and 5pm - we will release instructions to register for time slots once the registration for the event has closed and we have a final count.  PLEASE DO NOT EMAIL TO ASK FOR A SPECIFIC TIME SLOT.  We just cannot accommodate individual time slot requests, it will be first come, first serve when time slot registration is opened.

DECEMBER 9TH:  Is the traditional Operation Santa Carnival Event and is open to CURRENTLY SERVING MILITARY FAMILIES ONLY in addition to Veterans who have been referred through one of our partner VSOs.  

DECEMBER 16th:  Is a new addition that will allow veteran and retiree families (including grandchildren) to visit the Operation Santa space.   This differs from the traditional Operation Santa event in several ways. Please see the registration form for the explanation of the event. 

Q:  Who is eligible to attend the Event?

A:   ALL actively serving and veteran military members and their immediate family, regardless of need.  This is NOT an event based on need, rank or pay scale. This is an event to thank ALL military families for their service.  THIS IS FOR YOUR KIDS AND YOUR SPOUSE.  This is an extremely popular and well attended event.  All military service members signing up will be approved by local installations as actively serving or having veteran/retiree status.   This is a private event not a public event and is not an official military or DOD sponsored event.  Attendance is at the descretion of the hosts.   ONLY dependant children of service members in DEERS are eligible to attend as well as 2 adults per family.  There is no execption to this rule, this is so we can accommodate all families who would like to attend.  Please do not list friends, nieces, nephews, girlfriend/boyfriend's children, etc.  ONLY LEGAL dependents of service members in the DEERS sysetm are eligible and this will be verified with family readiness offices at each local installation. 

Q: What time is the event/When will time slot signups be released?

A:  Time slots are in 3 hour increments.  Start times will be be selected during regstration and will be 9am, 11am, 1pm and 2pm .    WE CANNOT TAKE REQUESTS FOR SPECIFIC TIME SLOTS  - PLEASE DO NOT ASK.  There are over 3,000 people that attend this event and giving anyone preferential requests if just not feasible. 

Q:  Why is a gift list necessary by child?

A:   This only is for the Dec 9th event currently.  Operation Santa is a very unique event where civilian volunteer children are paired with military children who are attending the event.   The civlian child earns the $ (up to $50) to purchase a gift from a military child's wishlist by doing extra chores at home or for family/neighbors.  They then pick out a gift, using the wish list as a guide and wrap the gift.    At the event when a military child visits santa and receives their gift, the civilian child "elf" who purchased the gift may be present to witness their gift being opened.  Gifts are purchased with a specific child in mind and it gives the civilian child a true understanding of the joy they are able to give to another person.  If you have attended our event in the past, you know how magical this experience is for both military and civilian families.  

Please insure that wish list guidelines are followed when completing this section of registration - see below.

Now that we have grown to over 3,000 military family members in attendance every year, not every person who has purchased a gift is able to volunteer, so your "Elf" may or may not be there to see gifts opened - our Elf Location Team does their best to insure any volunter elves that are at the event are notified when the gifts they purchased are being open.  This is a very special part of our event,  and is imperative to teaching the next generation to appreciate and recognize service to our country.   

Q:  What are the restrictions for gift wish lists?

A:   Please remember that wishlists are to give your "Elf" a guide to purchasing something your child will enjoy receiving, it is not meant to be a request for specific item and is not a catalog order form. We ask that you please limit your requests to items valued under $25.  Items listed that are valued at more then $25 will be completely removed and replaced with a similar category before being assigned to a volunteer for purchase.  For example, if "American Girl Doll" is listed, this will be replaced with "18" Doll."    The more general you can be the better.  Very specific items, catalog item & page numbers (yes this has actually happened) , etc will not be accepted and will be replaced with generic descriptions.  For example if  wish list says "Fisher Price Batman Blue Car, Target catalog page 12."   it will be replaced with "Batman".    

Gift Cards, Video Games, Clothing, Bikes and Larger Items like Sleds and Water Tables are NOT permitted.  Anything that would be larger than a standard kitchen garbage bag is not realistic for us to manage. 

Please insure you are listing at least THREE options.  Listing only one thing or saying "Anything" really limits our abilites to provide gifts and will require us to email you or call you to get clarification - time we really do not have, so please just complete the form in accordance with the directions when registering. 

Examples of perfect comments in the open field for wishlists are:   "Loves Anyting Pink and painting kits "   "Chase is his favorite Paw Patrol character."     General categories are the best for us to work with.  No gift card requests.  No clothing requests.  No electronic/ video game requests will be accepted. 

Q:  Do all children need to be present to receive gifts?

A:   YES.  All children must be present at the event to receive their gifts from Santa.  If children are not present you cannot take their gifts.  Again, there are civilian children present who have purchased the gifts for military children in attendance.   GIFTS WILL NOT BE PERMITTED TO LEAVE THE PREMISES UNOPENED OR IF CHILD IS NOT IN ATTENDANCE.  Please do not ask, as this rule will be strictly enforced.    Please do not sign up children that you know are not going to be present at the event just to get gifts and please do not sign up if you do not want your children to open gifts at the event.  

Unfortunately we have had people caught lying that their child was sick to get gifts, so the reason for them not being there is irrelevant.  If they are not in attendance, gifts will not be given. This is not a gift distribution like Toys For Tots or simiilar programs.   Gifts are not owed to anyone who registers.  The event is about the experience - not about the gifts.  If you are going to register just to get gifts and leave, PLEASE DO NOT ATTEND THIS EVENT BC IT IS NOT THE PURPOSE.  Anyone caught doing that will not be permitted to attend events in the future.  (Yes, unfortunately we do have a list of names that are no longer welcomg to attend due to past behavior.) 

This is event is NOT meant to provide gifts for Christmas morning.  We have another program component for Christmas morning support if it is needed - please see your Family Readiness Office if you need Christmas morning support - they have all the info for our program. 

If you are only going to let your kids open one gift and "save the rest"  or say you are going to just open them at home - DO NOT ATTEND THIS EVENT.  This will not be permittted and will be stricly enforced this year.  Unopened gifts will be returned to Santa.  Again, please do not take away the intention of this event.  

Q:  Do gifts have to be opened at the event?

A:   YES.  ALL GIFTS MUST BE OPENED AT THE EVENT.  Gifts given at the event are not meant to be saved for Christmas morning.  If you do not want your children to open their gifts at the event or you want them to open one gift and save the rest, PLEASE DO NOT SIGN UP OR ATTEND THIS EVENT.  A very large part of this event is the experience and interaction of families with one another.  If you need assistance for Christmas morning gifts, please see your Family Readiness Officer, they are aware of our programs that can provide support for Christmas morning.   We cannot stress enough to please do NOT SIGN UP FOR OUR EVENT if you do not intend to allow your children to open ALL of their gifts at the event.  

Q:  Why is there a charge per attendee?

A:   When we did not have a charge due at sign up for the event, we had many people sign up and then not show up the day of the event.  This left a lot of civilian children who worked to thoughtfully purchase and wrap gifts, with nobody to give them to and also resulted in a lot of $ wasted on food and prizes, etc. that were based on the number of people signed up to attend.  By collecting an admission price per attendee, it has severely limited "no shows".  We promise you will receive tremendously more then your admission fee in value.

Q:  What is included in the admission fee?

A:   The admission fee covers EVERYTHING - all food, activities, games, inflatables, crafts, caricatures, balloon artists, Princess/Star Wars character visits, Santa Visit & Photo, Gifts and more.  Everything inside the event space is covered in the admission per person for the length of the time session. 

Q:  Can I Register If I Am A Veteran or Retiree?

A:   If you are a veteran who is not in need and referred by a VSO,  you can sign up to attend the Dec 16th event only.  

Q:  Can I register if I am IRR?

A:   IRR families can only register for the Dec 16th event. 

Q:  If My Spouse is Deployed Can I Bring Someone In Their Place?

A:   Yes, 100% absolutely.  Every family is permitted 2 adults - we ask that one is a legal guardian of the children in attendance.  The second adult can be anyone you choose.   The name will be run through DHS to be cleared to attend. 

Q;  Both Parents Serve, Can We Both Register Seperately And Split The Kids So We Can Bring 2 More Adults?

A:  NO.  Every family unit has to stay together, for many reasons.  We are going to struggle with getting everyone in that wants to come this year and everything is based on individual attendee counts.  If your family is split into multiple registrations, we will remove both registrations and there is a chance you won’t get to attend at all.  Please keep your family together when registering. 

Q: If My Kids That Are Not My Legal Dependants Don't Get Santa Gifts, Can They Just Come & Enjoy the Activities?

A:   NO.   The gifts are the least of our worries, as most of the cost and planning is around the actual number of attendees and counts for volunteers, game prizes, craft supplies, etc. all of which are based on number of attendees.  We cannot allow any entry of anyone who is not registered and vetted as a legal dependant of an activeky serving or veteran service member. 

Q: Where Do We Sign Up To Buy Gifts For Our  Own Kids or Other Mil Families?

A:  Absolutley under no circumstances will we permit families to sign up to purchase for their own kids as this defeats the entire meaning and purpose of our event.  The point is for our civilian community to show their appreciation and gratitude for your family's service to our nation.  It is to teach the next generation of civlian kids.   We ask that miltiary famiies do not sign up to purchase for their own kids or other mil families, that is the role our community plays in this event.  We will cross check the attendee list against the Elf purchase sign up list - if attendees are listed to purchase for other people they will be removed.  We appreciate the generosity but please do not take away from the intended spirit of the event.  

Q:  What if I have more questions not answered here?

A:   Please email Kristi Hilbert at kristihilbert@heroessupportingheroes.org with any further questions or concerns. 

REGISTRATON CAN BE FOUND ON www.operationsantapgh.com. 

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