Eglin's Santa Hotline opened Monday, and will be available through Friday at (850) 882-NOEL (6635). The line will operate from 5 to 8 p.m. each evening.
EGLIN AFB — The 96th Communications Squadron again has established its annual telephone link with Santa Claus to give children of all ages a chance to make sure their Christmas wishes have been recorded at the North Pole.
Eglin's Santa Hotline opened Monday and will be available through Friday at 850-882-NOEL (6635). The line will operate from 5 to 8 p.m. each day.
This week marks the 22nd year the squadron's "Wire Dawgs" — active-duty personnel whose work includes establishing long-line communications links — have established the hotline in the days before Christmas.
Here's how it works: Wire Dawgs and other volunteers act as "elves" to take calls before relaying them to Santa along with some background information about the caller. That way, Santa can know something about the caller before he picks up the phone and greets them by name, said Senior Airman Zachery Cornitius, coordinator of this year's hotline.
The squadron routinely tries to have about 60 elves on hand to take calls, but as of late last week it was a little short of that number. Anyone interested in working as a hotline elf can call 850-882-9950 for more information. Qualifications aren't particularly rigid, "as long as you're cheerful and can sound like an elf," Cornitius said.
In recent years, Eglin's Santa Hotline has taken more than 100 calls each night. Last year's average was 180 calls, and the Wire Dawgs hope for an even larger number each night this year.
"This year, we're hoping to get 200," Cornitius said.
That volume is possible because not all of the callers end up talking with Santa, he added.
"Sometimes, the kids are happy just to talk to the elves," as long as they're assured their Christmas wishes will be forwarded to Santa, Cornitius said.
The hotline routinely takes calls from a number of states and even some foreign countries.
In 2015, the last time Cornitius coordinated the hotline, calls came in from 13 states, the United Kingdom and Australia, he said.
The wide reach of the Santa Hotline is in part the word of mouth passed from airmen and other personnel who have been stationed at Eglin. As they move to other bases or into private life, they spread the word about the hotline and thus increase the number of people who know about it, Cornitius said.
The most memorable calls to the Santa Hotline come from two kinds of kids, Cornitius said.
"There are the shy ones who still believe in Santa Claus, and the ones who maybe don't have as much as other kids," he said.