Government shutdown doesn’t affect volunteers tracking Santa at NORAD

In this Dec. 24, 2014, file photo, NORAD Chief of Staff Maj. Gen. Charles D. Luckey takes a call while volunteering at the NORAD Tracks Santa center at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs, Colo. Hundreds of volunteers will again this Christmas Eve help answer calls from children around the world wondering where Santa is along his journey. | Associated Press photo by Brennan Linsley, St. George News

DENVER, Colo. (AP) — The government may be partially shut down, but that won’t stop hundreds of volunteers dressed in Christmas hats and military uniforms Monday from taking calls from children around the world who want to know when Santa will be coming.

The military says the NORAD Tracks Santa won’t be affected by the government shutdown because it is run by volunteers Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado and is funded by the Department of Defense’s budget that was approved earlier this year.

Now in its 63rd year, the Santa tracker became a Christmas Eve tradition after a mistaken phone call to the Continental Air Defense Command in Colorado Springs, Colorado, in 1955. CONAD, as it was known, had the serious job of monitoring a far-flung radar network for any sign of a nuclear attack on the United States.

When Col. Harry Shoup picked up the phone that day, he found himself talking not to a military general, but to a child who wanted to speak to Santa Claus. A Colorado Springs newspaper had run an ad inviting kids to call Santa but mistakenly listed the hotline number.

Shoup figured out what had happened and played along. The tradition has since mushroomed into an elaborate operation that attracts tens of thousands of calls every year.

For the 1,500 civilian and military volunteers who will answer the phones for kids calling 1-877-HI-NORAD, it infuses the holiday with childlike wonder.

“They’re all really sweet, small voices,” said Madison Hill, a volunteer who helped answer the phones in two previous years.

“I had a little girl tell me good night instead of goodbye,” she said. “It’s really sweet.”

In this Dec. 24, 2017, file photo, Canadian Lt. Maj. Chris Hache takes a call while volunteering at the NORAD Tracks Santa center at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs, Colo. | Photo by Jerilee Bennett/The Gazette via Associated Press, St. George News

The North American Aerospace Defense Command – a joint U.S.-Canadian operation based in Colorado Springs, Colorado, that protects the skies over both countries – has taken over the Santa tracker since the tradition started. The military command center embraced and expanded the Santa-tracking mission and has been rewarded with a bounty of goodwill and good publicity.

Last year, NORAD Tracks Santa drew 126,000 phone calls, 18 million website hits, 1.8 million followers on Facebook and 179,000 more on Twitter.

It takes 160 phones to handle the calls that pour in. New volunteers get a playbook that briefs them on the questions kids might ask. Big screens on the walls show a Santa icon making blistering progress around the globe. U.S. and Canadian officers do live TV interviews from the phone rooms.

“It really gets you into the Christmas spirit,” said Hill, a student at Mississippi State University who got involved through Air Force family members stationed in Colorado Springs.

“There are Christmas carols in the background, everyone’s very friendly, happy to be there,” she said.

One year, she took a call from a boy who began reading a very long Christmas list. “I remember having to cut him off after the 10th present or so,” she said, explaining to him that she had to take calls from other children.

A girl told Hill she wanted to warn Santa not to bump into a bell hanging on her door. “I think she wanted Santa to be quiet and not wake her up,” Hill said.

Sometimes the volunteers have to handle the unexpected. In 2012, a child from Newtown, Connecticut, asked if Santa could bring extra toys for families who lost children in the mass shooting that year at Sandy Hook Elementary.

“If I can get ahold of him, I’ll try to get the message to him,” replied the volunteer, Sara Berghoff.

NORAD’s commander, Air Force Gen. Terrence J. O’Shaughnessy, will also take a turn answering the phones Monday.

“This is my first NORAD Tracks Santa,” said O’Shaughnessy, who took command in May. “I’m really excited.”

O’Shaughnessy was even asked about the program during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing in April to confirm him as NORAD chief.

“I assume this committee can count on your commitment to continue that venerable tradition,” Arkansas Republican Sen. Tom Cotton deadpanned.

“Yes sir, especially since my son Sam would want to see that as well,” O’Shaughnessy replied.

Written by DAN ELLIOTT, Associated Press.

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright 2018 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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  • Kilroywashere December 24, 2018 at 8:27 pm

    Dear Norad Santa, can we get a new FED Chairman next year. Pretty please.

  • Kilroywashere December 24, 2018 at 8:55 pm

    Norad Santa, I know that maybe I am asking too much. Can we just audit the Federal Reserve? Just once Santa, just one little audit. Can’t hurt, every private company in the United States of America is audited at some point. Pleeeeeese, Santa. I know you have to keep names secret, but just asking Santa.

    • Comment December 24, 2018 at 9:21 pm

      Will never happen. The Fed are zionists cut from the same cloth as those that helped orchestrate 9/11–maybe even a few of the actual people who did. They are simply above the law. Those who create the money rule the world.

      • Kilroywashere December 24, 2018 at 9:59 pm

        Wrong. Too much conspiracy You Tube TV Mr. Comment. . To this day no one knows who owns the fed as by law the investors are kept anonymous. I hope you are aware the “Protocols of the Elders of Zion” was a forged document. 100% fact. Let’s be real.

        • Comment December 24, 2018 at 10:39 pm

          Messing around in the Fed’s affairs is probably the quickest way for a politician to get assassinated. “Protocols of the Elders of Zion”–I’ve never read the whole thing or even close to it, but, forged or not, there is truth in there. Supposedly, the Rothschild family still owns the largest stake in the Fed. The Fed is a sinister, secretive apparatus that would not exist in a good world. The whole thing is controlled by US-based zionists, old money US oligarch families and Israeli interests. I don’t have the time or care to look up “conspiracy” stuff anymore. But it is what it is. And no one will dare touch the Fed. Won’t happen.

  • Kilroywashere December 24, 2018 at 9:47 pm

    Ok Norad Santa, I’m really REALLY sorry . I know asking for an audit is way too much. Like asking for an Xbox One X when you can get A PSP slim or Xbox 1S for $200 vs. twice the cost. How about this. Bring Janet Yellen back, Santa. Look we all know when our favorite College football team has a bad coach out the gate. The same goes for the Fed . This is not highschool banking League. Santa, all I ask on behalf of the American people, get a new coach. Please. PLEASE. Please. Look at the global economy. Look at Brexit chaos, look at protests in the EU, look at Germany, look at China. Hello. The state of the GLOBAL Economy matters!!!!! Add to that a US govt shutdown. Chaos in S. America, (see Venezuela) add to that mass migration from Central America, why? Oh because their economies are flourushing down there? Hello . EARTH To Fed ? Please Norad Santa, you got to help!

  • KR567 December 25, 2018 at 1:19 pm

    Hey Norad
    is it possible for you guys to track
    the amount of BS that comes from
    Washington ?

    • Redbud December 25, 2018 at 3:05 pm

      It is very true there’s a lot of BS from Washington, and it will be taken to another level with the Schumer-Pelosi team (might as well call them Satan). The good news is we have Trump leading the way. He is guiding the country through the swamp, and that swamp will continue to drain after he’s reelected in 2020! Merry Trumpmas!

      • Comment December 25, 2018 at 4:57 pm

        lol, i guess we’ll find out

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