“Operation Ride Home” strives to bring holiday spirit to military families
ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) – The Armed Forces YMCA of Alaska partners with Jack Daniels each year to help spread the holiday spirit among military families.
The two team up each year to run the “Operation Ride Home” program, which helps ease the financial burden on service members trying to get home with their loved ones over the holidays.
“We know it’s very expensive to fly when you have two kids and a spouse and you’re looking at four to five tickets, especially over the holidays, we know it’s tough,” said Sarah Riffer, Executive Director of ASYMCA.
The program is open to junior enlisted service members. Through donors and working with Delta Air Lines and Alaska Airlines mileage programs, service members receive a stipend that covers most travel costs, Riffer said.
Additionally, the program in Alaska allows families to travel outside of the holiday season, according to Riffer, because not everyone can take time off during Thanksgiving and Christmas. Last year, the program was able to help between 120 and 130 junior members return home at any one time, helping to organize a long-awaited reunion.
“Often every year we see grandparents who may be meeting their grandchildren for the first time,” Riffer said. “We can see service members who may not have gone home two or three years after a pandemic being able to go home and enjoy their mother’s cookies for the first time in a long time.”
In order to enroll in the program, service members can register on the ASYMCA website under the “Operation Ride Home” tab. Registration begins September 1 and continues until the end of the month. Riffer said those interested in donating to the program can do so on the website.
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