© Eric Bell
A student at Father Gamache Memorial School in Fond-du-Lac enjoys a slice of pizza delivered by Santa on Wednesday.
Smiling children could be seen throughout Fond-du-Lac Wednesday as Santa’s plane made an afternoon stop at Father Gamache Memorial School to visit the northern community with a cargo of 300 pizzas to be given as a gift to local residents.
“The crowd was just getting bigger and bigger,” school Principal Cheryl Thunder said. “I was having a hard time getting in and out of the doors.”
The visit was organized as part of Transwest Airline’s annual Santa run, which started as a way to give back to the northern communities the airline serves. After years of handing out presents, the company decided to start sending pizza, a popular food that is not easily obtainable in the isolated community.
“There’s no place to get a pizza like that,” Thunder said. “It’s my first Santa run from Transwest, so I didn’t really know what to expect. I’ve never seen anything like it before.”
Despite the sub-zero temperature, dozens of community members visited the school as well in order to warm up with a little holiday cheer.
“It brought a lot of the parents in, its the second biggest gathering I’ve seen since I’ve been here,” Thunder said. “The largest I saw was last night for the Christmas concert. The place was just packed with parents and community members.”
Thunder attributes the success of the school’s holiday events to her staff, saying that they “really care about the kids and the community.” Many of the teachers in Fond- du-Lac are from other parts of Canada and stay in the community for months at a time.
“Everything has gone so smoothly, and last night they put on a really good show,” Thunder said. “I’m very pleased with the excellence and calibre of the staff that are working here. Some dressed as Santa and Mrs. Claus and were escorting the kids from the classrooms, others were serving food and heating up pizza for the elders. So you see a lot of participation from the staff.”
Fond-du-Lac was the first stop on Transwest’s annual Santa run. Pizzas will also be delivered to Stony Rapids, Black Lake and Wollaston Lake over the next few days.
Rob Garneau, also known as Santa Claus during the trip, is one of the employees representing Transwest. A big fan of the north, Garneau says the santa run will be a memorable experience.
“There was a little girl there today, I don’t know if she was school age, but she was there visiting her brother or sister,”Garneau said. “She had a nice big smile for us, and I saw the spirit of Christmas in her eyes. That really stuck with me today and will stick with me for years to come.”