About 200 children from throughout the Central Coast converged on Vandenberg Air Force Base on Saturday for a special — and festive — holiday celebration.

The children joined with hundreds of airmen and other volunteers as part of the 59th annual Operation Kids Christmas, an event in which children from families in need are treated each year to games, crafts, snacks, gifts and a visit from Santa Claus himself.

The children, most of whom were between the ages of 5 and 10 years old, arrived at the base by bus from Lompoc, Santa Maria, the Santa Ynez Valley and the Five Cities area. The children were escorted into VAFB’s Pacific Coast Club, where they were able to navigate through different activity stations during the three-hour party.

Each child, all of whom were selected for the event by area social workers, received a handful of gifts. They also were given other prizes and gift baskets to take home for their families.

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Operation Kids Christmas started at VAFB in 1959 to brighten the holidays for underprivileged youth, according to founder Michael Petlantsky, an Orcutt resident who died in 2012.

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