News>Sesame Street, USO reach out to Edwards families
Military ID card holders and their guests were invited to attend the "Sesame Street USO Experience for Military Families" Aug. 10. Two shows were held in the Oasis Community Center's Stripes Lounge. (U.S. Air Force photo by Jet Fabara)
8/15/2012 - EDWARDS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- For military servicemembers and their families, a life of serving their country can be very rewarding, but it also comes with some unique challenges - particularly for young children.
Recognizing the need to help children cope with the unique challenges of military life, the USO created a Sesame Street experience that reaches out to young family members and helps parents to initiate an important dialogue.
Aug. 10, the "USO Sesame Street Experience for Military Families" performed twice in Stripes Lounge at the Oasis Community Center and nearly 900 servicemembers and their guests attended the show. In addition to a fun and educational experience with the Sesame Street crew, each child in attendance received a toy and a USO handkerchief.
"The USO does wonderful things for the troops and their families. I am honored to have worked with them, it's a blessing they came to Edwards," said Terry Stegman, 412th Force Support Squadron. "It's important that the kids are not frightened of the changes associated with military life. It's so much harder on them and this really helps the kids understand they can keep their old friends and make new ones. Not only is the show fun, it's a great learning experience."
Currently, the show focuses on helping children overcome fears about the frequent moving required of military families. However, in years passed, the "Sesame Street Experience for Military Families" focused on helping children tackle the challenges associated with a deployed parent.
The Gerber family had recently gone through those challenges last October at Yokota Air Base, Japan. Although her children are on the young side, she admits that not only was it a fun experience and a great learning opportunity for her oldest daughter, Natalie; but it helped her to feel more comfortable approaching her daughter to talk about the everyday challenges of military life.
"This was a neat opportunity for the USO to come out to Edwards. Circumstances are different for each family; whether they are faced with deployments or moving. It makes it easier to talk to my daughter about moving to a new place and meeting new friends," said Holly Gerber, Air Force dependent. "Through shows like this, the USO helps kids understand they aren't alone and they aren't the only ones making sacrifices."
Gerber's daughter, Natalie, was only 4 years old when they moved to Japan. She had the opportunity to enjoy the "Sesame Street Experience for Military Families in Japan" when the show focused on helping children cope with deployed parents.
"The show really helps you face the variety of challenges you face in military life," said Gerber. "It really touches home."
The Sesame Street characters welcomed a new friend, Katie, introduced just last year. Katie's character exists solely for the USO's show to help children understand they aren't alone when they feel uncertain about moving to a new place.
Although Katie starts out sad, by the end of the show, Elmo and his friends have taught her that not only will she remain friends with the Sesame Street crew, but she will also make new friends as she continues moving to new locations.
"One in three military families moves each year. That is an extraordinary burden. This show helps as a great resource," said Lonnie Cooper, USO tour producer. "It is important that these families have this resource available to them. It is a great way to start the conversation and help parents reach out to their kids."
This year the USO will take the "Sesame Street Experience for Military Families" to 68 military installations throughout the continental United States in approximately eight months, which included the stop at Edwards Aug. 10.
According to Cooper, the show has reached more than 300,000 military servicemembers and their families in locations throughout the world. They keep a tough tour schedule by visiting approximately two to three installations each week, with three shows at each location.
Cooper has served as the "Sesame Street Experience for Military Families" tour producer since 2009. For him, reaching out to the troops who sacrifice so much is what matters most.
"This is the best job ever. We have the opportunity to serve those who have the hardest job," he said.