By Dion Dostaler, W7DEE
In the spirit of the holiday season, eight amateur radio (ham) operators found a way to bring some joy to disadvantaged and shut-in children of all ages. Thanks to the world-wide range of amateur radio equipment, it’s possible for hams to communicate with other hams almost anywhere on earth, including Santa Claus at the North Pole. Thus was born the North Pole Network (NPN) which purports to use special satellite links to allow kids to talk one-on-one with the jolly old elf himself.
On Dec. 6, a group of Morgan and Summit County amateur radio operators activated the North Pole Network with a special call sign, W7S, at the Family Connection and Rocky Mountain Care facilities in Clearfield. The amateur radio volunteers set up their portable radio sets to allow both children and adults to talk directly to the man!
Each “kid” donned “special” antlers while talking to Santa, and afterwards was given a custom button declaring he or she had talked with Santa over amateur radio as well as a special card commemorating the event. Advance work by his elves as well as on-the-spot observations by the volunteers ensured that Santa knew exactly who he was talking with and removed all doubt that the person was talking with the real Santa. This was the second annual event of its kind in Northern Utah and the volunteers hope to continue it as an annual event in the future, serving more facilities each year.
The project originated here in Morgan County last year and most of the amateur operators are Morgan County residents. The project started out aimed at children who were shut-ins in hospitals at Christmas.
Since Morgan doesn’t have hospitals, Mckay-Dee, Ogden Regional and Davis Hospitals were approached, but didn’t feel that the children left in the hospitals on Christmas would be suitable recipients for this kind of activity. So organizers looked for a facility that dealt with serving children. One was found in Clearfield last year that begged for the services to come back this year.
A nursing home nearby found out last year and wanted the service to come this year. Next year, organizers intend to approach the Family Tree assisted living in North Morgan as well as the elementary schools in Morgan and Mountain Green to see if they might want this service.