A very Merry Christmas for students at Canyon Lake elementary

Rapid City, SD — Generous souls brightened the day of Canyon Lake Elementary School students this week.

Don and Linda Rydstrom, owners of Westjet Air Center celebrated another year of being Santa. For the past decade the Rydstroms and various officials from the Rapid City Police Department, Fire Department and EMS have visited Canyon Lake Elementary to hand out Christmas gifts to each student. Between Canyon Lake and various charities, the Rydstroms and their company Westjet purchase over 900 toys and Christmas presents a year. Linda Rydstrom says the inspiration was born of wanting to give back to the community.

“When we were in church about 11 years ago, they were doing a collection to enhance the backpack and had mentioned this school that there was a big need for them, and so I came down and talked to the principal, and discovered that there may be some kids within the school that weren’t going to have a nice Christmas, or maybe even get a toy. So we decided that year to buy a toy for every child in the school and host a Christmas party.”

Linda also says she attend Canyon Lake until the 3rd grade and the school holds a special place in her heart.

The excitement was almost tangible as classes, especially the younger classes,  met in the library throughout the day to receive their special presents and meet with Santa. The day was extra special for one little girl from Nigeria who is celebrating her first Christmas in America. She was thrilled, saying the gift given was the first she’d ever received for Christmas. While Santa is culturally normal in Nigeria, known for handing out candies and sweets to good children, gift-giving is not. Angel Onyibe said,

“This is my first Christmas here, and I have been in a different country and my country we don’t share gifts.”

The Rydstroms have had the privilege of watching children grow through the program, and the difference it makes for them seeing public officials giving back to the community. Students are also delighted seeing familiar and caring faces every Christmas.

“You can tell the older kids that they try not to be excited, but they are. So it’s great to see some of the kids that are back year after year that I’ve seen come up through the earlier grades.”

With only days left in the countdown, this is sure to brighten a child and family in need this Holiday.

From Angel and the students at Canyon Lake Elementary, Merry Christmas!


Categories: Local News, South Dakota News