Operation Santa Claus

Biking, running and treasure hunts as day of fun on Lamma builds community bonds

Island Bar takes annual charity effort for Operation Santa Claus to ‘next level’ with host of events to bring local residents together

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 07 December, 2016, 12:30pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 08 December, 2016, 9:32am

For the 12th year in a row, Jim ­Burkett donned a fake white beard and a Santa hat to entertain both children and adults, rounding off a day of fun and charity on Lamma Island.

The Lamma resident said he was intrigued by the gift requests he received from children.

“The best thing is when kids ask me for presents,” he said. “A seven year old once asked me for a yacht. Another wanted peace in the world.”

For more than a decade, ­Burkett has played Santa during the closing ceremony of the traditional treasure hunt at The Island Bar, which was held on Sunday.

The event has been held for 18 years as part of Operation Santa Claus, the charity campaign ­jointly organised by the South China Morning Post and RTHK.

But this year, Brad Tarr, the bar’s new owner, said it was even bigger, and he hoped to raise more than HK$20,000 for the charity’s 23 local beneficiaries.

“After I took over the bar, I pledged to take the event to the next level and raise as much as possible,” he said.

“In addition to the beloved family treasure hunt, this year we had a number of new and exciting events,” co-organiser Robert Lockyer said.

The day kicked off with a quiz followed by a mountain bike ­endurance test, which was once an island tradition before it was dropped in 2008.

Expats sometimes live far away from their families, but can find one here
Robert Lockyer, event co-organiser

Third-placed contestant Jayson said there were few such contests in Hong Kong. “[This is] an opportunity for people to do some sports,” he said.

Many also took part in a half marathon and a 10km family-friendly hike around the island. A “kiddie village hunt” saw children exploring Yung Shue Wan.

According to Lockyer, the Lamma community is like “one big family” where everybody knows each other. He said the key to the event’s success is that it ­attracts people of all nationalities and ages.

“Everyone here is passionate about Operation Santa Claus,” he said. “Expats sometimes live far away from their families, but can find one here.”

He has seen local children growing up over the years who are committed to joining the annual festivities .

“It’s a binding occasion both for locals and expats,” he said. “And the children just love it.”