Arctic Warrior Wishes aims to fulfill a record 200 wishes for enlisted service members this holiday season
ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Making holiday wishes come true — especially for service members — is one of Sarah Riffer’s favorite things to do.
“There is nothing I think that is more special to us here at the Armed Services YMCA than to just directly take care of each of our service members and their families in the way that they need to be cared for,” said Riffer, who serves as the Executive Director of ASYMCA of Alaska.
For the past three years, the ASYMCA has asked community members to step up and act as holiday genies who can grant wishes for those in uniform. Donors from the community are able to become sponsors and help make a soldier’s wish come true through the ASYMCA program called Arctic Warrior Wishes.
“I think it really reminds them that the magic of Christmas is real,” Riffer said.
In October, junior enlisted service members have the opportunity to submit a wish to ASYMCA. The sky is the limit when it comes to creating a wish — the ASYMCA says they have seen everything from a service member asking for a pumpkin pie to having a family member flown in for the holidays. Then in November, ASYMCA allows community members to choose a wish to sponsor. People can also choose to donate money and ASYMCA will do the shopping necessary to grant the wish.
“Taking the opportunity just to to give them a little extra boost at the holidays is really why we developed this program and opportunity,” Riffer said.
This year, the ASYMCA saw their largest amount of wishes the organization has ever received. Over 200 wish requests were made — more than the first two years of the program combined. This year, according to Riffer, it seemed to be a more difficult year for service members.
“It seems like 2022 has been a little tougher for our military families, especially our junior enlisted,” Riffer said.
But programs like this exist to spark a little holiday joy and hope during dark times, giving them something to remind them they’re cared for.
“It’s a good reminder that in this whole world, where things can sometimes always seem negative, that there are so many positive and good things happening,” Riffer said. “Make sure that our service members have magical holiday.”
This is the last week help support or grant a wish. Those interested can visit the ASYMCA website to see what wishes have yet to be granted.
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