The COVID-19 Grinch was on the loose, but a group of determined Airmen at Arnold Air Force Base fended off the foe and delivered Christmas cheer for children and families with the Children’s Candy Cane Caravan.

In previous years, Arnold Services hosted a Children’s Christmas Party, but such an event was not to be with the risk of COVID-19 transmission.

COVID-19 Grinch

The Grinch pretends to throw a snowball at a car during the Christmas event at AEDC. The base adapted to the new normal to help spread holiday cheer.

“Earlier this year, everyone in Arnold Services was disappointed we would have to cancel our biggest event of the year,” said Carrie McGrew, Services Office director. “Fortunately, we have some very creative and out-of-the-box thinkers in Services, and the Children’s Candy Cane Caravan was the result.

“In early November, Arnold Services Deputy Ms. Rachel Napier and Marketing Manager Ms. Tanya Bryan teamed with Mr. Jason Layne from Security Forces, Master Sgt. Ricardo Hollingsworth from the Medical Aid Station, and Mr. Lee Smith, AEDC Community Support coordinator, to discuss the drive-thru idea and decide if we could safely pull off the event. The excitement and can-do attitude from that first meeting has carried through to overwhelming support from Col. (Jeffrey) Geraghty (Arnold Engineering Development Complex commander) and every office on Arnold AFB.”

The result was the transformation of Westover Road in the Arnold Village area into Candy Cane Lane for the enjoyment of children and families of AEDC employees; active-duty, Reserve and National Guard military members; and military retirees.

Santa was stationed at the end of Candy Cane Lane, with his elves assisting with photos, as guests remained in their cars. Goodies were handed out to children 12-years-old and younger.

Arnold Services staff wore gloves and masks. The event was designed so any close-proximity interaction between staff and guests would not exceed 15 seconds.

Two competitions were added to the celebration this year – unit greeting cards and military family housing decorations. Guests of the Children’s Candy Cane Caravan voted for their favorite card and house with voting cards dropped in a mail chute accessible from their vehicles. Guests also could enter a drawing for door prizes, one entry per vehicle.

“Putting together a new event under COVID-19 constraints was not an easy undertaking,” McGrew said, as she expressed appreciation for all the support for the event.

“The Medical Aid Station provided guidance on pandemic safety. The new DAF (Department of the Air Force) Security Forces managed the traffic flow, as well as behind-the-scenes anti-terrorism measures. Base Civil Engineering provided generators and equipment to help us flood Candy Cane Lane with holiday lights. Several offices have spent their personal time painting and decorating greeting cards. Families in base housing decked their homes and lawns with even more delightful scenes. The local Marine Corps League provided a drop off box for Toys for Tots donations. Arnold military members volunteered their skills and time. And local businesses and organizations donated equipment and give-away items.

“While Arnold Services hosted a new, delightful opportunity to enjoy the season, it was truly a base and community effort.”