Serving Gogebic, Iron and Ontonagon Counties

Santa, veterans group team to bring cheer

HURLEY, Wis. - Volunteers kept kids busy with holiday arts and crafts while parents waited for them in line at the annual meet Santa event on Sunday.

The meet Santa event is sponsored each year by Gogebic-Iron Range Chapter 529 of the Vietnam Veterans of America. For nearly 20 years approximately 130 to 150 kids come from around the region to the event at the Iron County Memorial Building.

"Our group chapter have been doing this for years," said Mike Peterson, a member of Chapter 529 VVA. "We enjoy coming in and seeing a smile on the kids faces."

Arvid Sivula, the commander of Chapter 529 VVA, said the post buys enough toys for around 150 kids from money they raise at the annual Steak Feed fundraiser in May. They base the amount of toys on the number of kids who attended the previous year's event and gauge the demand by how long the line spans the length of the Memorial building hall.

"Usually if a line stays that long for an hour then we know we'll be near the same figures again," Sivula said.

Back stage there are associate chapter members including the spouses of members, he said. They hand out presents from behind the curtains and their kids work as Santa's elves.

This year the Hurley Area Chamber of Commerce got involved, Sivula said. The chamber advertised the event, made cookies and brought in a face painter and balloon maker from Fun E Business who volunteered their time, he said.

"They added a little extra this year," Sivula said. "Normally it was just us guys with the toys and the candy."

Rita Franzoi, event coordinator at the Hurley Area Chamber of Commerce, said the organization held a tree lighting ceremony at the city hall last year and saw helping out with the Santa event as a good opportunity to make a difference.

"I recognized the need to partner with an event like this to make it easier for families and to be able to do something like this for the kids," Franzoi said. "I'm happy. This is working out really nice."

Stacey Hoglund, of Hurley, volunteered on behalf of Domestic Violence Escape Shelter (DOVE). She said the VVA is doing amazing work with the community with events like this. When she saw the Chamber's craft and snack idea for the event Hoglund said DOVE wanted to get involved.

"Anytime that we can partner with any community events we're always more than willing to hop in and help," Hogland said. "Sometimes we don't know exactly what's going on but it's like give me a date and a time and I'll be there."

Trisa Kleczka, of Mellen, said this is her second time coming to the event with her 5-year-old son. She said he was excited to see Santa and was going to ask for a "big fluffy soft cat blanket."

"It's very nice," Kleczka said. "It's very generous of them to do this."

Liz Mathias, Hurley, said she was debating whether or not to bring her 1-year-old son, Caleb, to see Santa this year, or to wait until next year when he would comprehend more of what is happening.

"But I figured I would give it a shot," Mathias said. "It was so close to home we could hardly miss the opportunity."

Caleb was a little shy of Santa, but appeared to having a good time with all of the fun and excitement.