Wilmer Valderrama Lends Star Power to Support The USO through LullaPets!

Banjo the Bear is just one of many colorful LullaPets available to record a message from your loved one!

Actor and producer Wilmer Valderrama and his network of celebrity friends are working together to launch “LullaPets” The Musical Companions. LullaPets is a child’s companion product, equipped with its own name and biographical profile, removable wireless remote controlled MP3 player and a built-in voice recorder, allowing parents to record voice messages and lullabies for their children. It includes ten pre-loaded lullabies and two audio books.

Each celebrity “ambassador” has the opportunity to donate a set percentage of proceeds to a charity of their choice.  Valderrama a USO tour veteran and avid supporter of troops and their families, has chosen the USO as his charity of choice!  For families with loved ones overseas, LullaPets can be a great companion and provide children with the sound of a parent’s voice in their absence.  And with a variety of characters to choose from, every kid can find a favorite.

For Valderrama, supporting the troops has been a priority for years.  The Dry Land had this to say in a recent interview with Movieline: “So I got on this plane and the first trip [with the USO] I went to was Germany, and I brought my comedy show there, and the audience was just the most amazing audience to perform for, man. They were just hungry for entertainment and humor. I got hooked right after that first visit. I went to nine countries back-to-back, and then I went to Iraq and Afghanistan, and now I’m a longtime member of the USO.”

As you know, the USO is a private, nonprofit organization, and relies on the generosity of individuals like Valderrama and corporations to support its activities.  To help Valderrama in his efforts to support the USO, consumers can simply provide the promotion code “Wilmer” on the LullaPets website, www.lullapets.com, or by calling the LullaPets hotline at 888.298.6507.  We thank Valderrama for his support!

Connecting Military Teens Worldwide

By Vernessa Neu, Founder, The Military Teen Network

The Military Teen Network recently launched MiltaryTeenOnline.com, an interactive website specifically designed for military teens.

Many of the approximately 1.4 million active duty members in the U.S. military and an additional 848,000 members of the reserve have teenagers in their household. These teens not only face the pressures of everyday life of adolescence but they face additional stress factors such as deployments, family separation, and new schools. MilitaryTeenOnline.com is an excellent way to connect these teens to other teens in the same or similar situations.

The Military Teen Network founder Vernessa Neu, 2nd from left, worked directly with Yokosuka-based teens (l-r) Dusty-Lynn Keolanui, Kennethia Smith, and Meghan Pomeroy to create MilitaryTeen.com. (Photo courtesy of Vernessa Neu)

MilitaryTeenOnline.com is an easily accessible resource that provides a variety of opportunities for teens to connect, chat, blog, and share their experiences. Other features on the site include a Military Teen’s Guide to Deployment, moving tips, forums, and duty station ratings from a teen’s perspective.

All teens, including those with parents who are active duty, reserve, and guard members are invited to become a part of the network.  You can follow us on facebook.com/militaryteen and twitter.com/militaryteen.

*****

Join The Military Teen Network for our first virtual roundtable discussion!
Date: Tue, Sept 14, 2010 – 8:00pm-8:45pm EST
Topics: Fast & Fatty (in honor of National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month) and Base Teen Programs
Where: Meet in the MilitaryTeenOnline.com chat room at 8pm.
Please join us & help the community learn more about military teens’ needs.  One participant will walk away with a sponsored gift.

Vernessa Neu, is a Navy Veteran, military spouse, mother, and former military teen. She and her family currently reside in Yokosuka, Japan where Vernessa volunteers her time working with youth in the community.  The opinions expressed in this blog are solely those of Vernessa Neu and do not necessarily reflect those of the USO.

Operation Purple Camp Helps Military Kids Cope

Image Courtesy of Operation Purple Camp

CNN’s Jason Carroll reports on Operation Purple, a special camp created just for kids with a parent deployed in the military.  First Lady Michelle Obama cited both Operation Purple and the Sesame Street/USO Experience for special recognition in a speech at the National Military Family Association earlier this year, saying “One of the great lessons of recent years is that you don’t need to be a military expert to help…Consider the Sierra Club, which partnered with the NMFA to create Operation Purple — summer camps that have made a difference in the lives of tens of thousands of military kids. Or my favorite, Sesame Street, which has partnered with the USO to reach more than 100,000 military families and helped kids cope with some very challenging situations.”

Operation Purple (the name comes from the fact that all branches of the military are jointly included) has grown to include over 30,000 kids and teens in camping at locations across the country.  Campers hail from all ranks and Services, active and reserve components; priority is given to children whose parents are currently within a 15 month deployment “window,” the precise dates of which are announced on an annual basis.  In addition to traditional outdoor camp, programming also includes Operation Purple Healing Adventures, designed for children and families of wounded warriors.  The best part?  It’s free!  2011 applications are now being accepted.

The USO lifts the spirits of troops and their families millions of times a year at thousands of places worldwide, and we’re especially proud of everyone who provides opportunities for military kids.  Have you been to an Operation Purple camp?  What other opportunities for military kids are available this summer?  Share your comments below!

Sesame Street/USO Tour Touches Over 150k Military Families Worldwide Since 2008!

Grover jumps for joy at Hicken AFB in Hawaii for just a few of the over 150,000 military families he's visited worldwide! (USO Photo)

The Sesame Street/USO Experience for Military Families, a free traveling USO show based on Sesame Workshop’s award winning Talk, Listen, Connect initiative, hit a new milestone during their performance at Naval Station Mayport on June 10, having entertained and educated over 150,000 military families since it debuted in June 2008!

“The USO couldn’t be more thrilled with the impact that the Sesame Street/USO tour is having on our nation’s military community and with our ongoing partnership with Sesame Workshop,” says USO President and CEO Sloan Gibson.  “Touching more than 150,000 troops and their families is more that we could have ever hoped for and it lets us know that tours and programs like this are important. They do more than entertain, they lift spirits and provide vital tools that make it easier for military families to cope with the challenges of deployments.”

With the help of Elmo and his friends, military children learn about ways to deal with the hardships of deployments and separation from loved ones.  Military families in attendance experience a 25-minute character performance and receive giveaways and outreach materials.  To date, the tour has traveled over 50,000 miles to 90 bases in nine countries and 27 states, performing 237 shows for service members and their families.

Gary Knell, President and CEO, Sesame Workshop, has this to say about the tour: “The momentum that this show has gathered since it first performed for military kids and families is unbelievable. To see how families come together and then use the messages from the show to talk to their kids is the greatest reward that we could ask for. We at Sesame Workshop are thrilled to continue this work with our partners and friends at the USO and reinforce our commitment to military families.”

The tour is free for all military ID holders and is currently half way through a five-month summer leg.  Click here to see the full schedule and click here for a list of FAQs.

We hope you enjoy the video below, but before you watch, Elmo has a special message for you!  “Elmo is so excited to come and see all his military friends and family. We’ll sing fun songs and even learn something with Elmo, Rosita, Cookie Monster and Zoe. See you there!”

Get Your Sesame Street/USO Experience Group Photo Today!

Nearly 800 people braved the rains to enjoy the USO/Sesame Street Experience in Jacksonville.

Did you know that when you take your family to the Sesame Street/USO Experience tour there’s a group picture taken?  That’s right, we catch everybody having fun in photographic form.  Click here to see the group photos!

When you find your location, click on that photo, then click on “All Sizes” next to the magnifying glass directly above the image.  You can then download and save any size you want as a keepsake!

Please note: Photos are for personal use only and should not be reproduced commercially without express written consent of the USO.

Angel Flight Northeast Announces Angels for Armed Forces® Program

The USO and Angel Flight Northeast are proud to announce the creation of the Angels for Armed Forces® program, which “provides free flights to military personnel and veterans, who need to access medical care.  It also provides flights for military family members who need to travel to visit injured service members and whose financial resources do not permit them to travel by commercial airlines. These flights are conducted by AFNE volunteer pilots, many being veterans themselves, who share not only a love of flying, but also have a deep commitment to helping others. They donate their time, their airplanes, all expenses of the flight, and mostly, their hearts to serve their community and those in need.”  Awesome!

Read more about the program by clicking here and feel free to print out the poster below to let qualified active duty Troops, veterans, and military family members know about this great new program.