‘Sesame Street’ helps military children with parents’ deployments

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“The program relates to the kids and lets them know that dealing with deployment is tough, but we’ll get through it together,” said Bill Austin, public affairs officer at Naval Station Mayport in Jacksonville, Fla., adding that in Mayport, deployment is a way of life.

The $4 million program is run entirely on contributions from the USO’s 2-million-donor pool, including hundreds of major corporations, Mr. Gibson said.

“All you have to do is look at the faces of the kids — the look is one of sheer delight,” Mr. Gibson said, describing the first time he saw the show as what inspired him to take it around the world. He added that the lines are so long at the naval bases that they sometimes schedule extra shows.

Heidi Malkowski, an Air Force mother of three whose husband just came back from a one-year deployment in Korea, helped coordinate the tour at McGuire Air Force Base in New Jersey and said her own children “had a blast” at the program.

“It’s nice for them to know that there are other kids that are going through the same thing,” she said. “It’s good support for them.”

The shows also provide outreach materials for children and parents, giving advice on how to talk about the stress of deployment. Mr. Knell said this approach will help both the family and the soldier.

“When the kids feel good, the soldier feels a lot better about getting his job done overseas,” Mr. Knell said.

“I feel like we’ve hit a niche, and we’re filling a need that was not filled before,” he added.

Although the USO and Sesame Workshop are only “discussing the potential for moving forward” with the Sesame Street tour, according to Mr. Gibson, the two organizations said they will continue to offer resources for military families after the tour ends in September.

Mr. Gibson said he hoped the Sesame Street tour would send a message to the children especially: “Thank you for your service and your sacrifice.”

© Copyright 2014 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

About the Author
Michelle Phillips

Michelle Phillips

Michelle Phillips is a student intern with the Washington Times through the National Journalism Center covering international affairs.

After growing up overseas, Ms. Phillips returned to the U.S. to attend Rice University for her bachelor’s degree, and is entering her junior year there. She discovered her love of journalism in college while working for the school newspaper, the Rice Thresher, ...

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