Sesame Street Puppeteers Take ‘Elmo’ and ‘Rosita’ to Germany on a USO Adventure

Celebrated puppeteers Kevin Clash (Elmo) and Carmen Osbahr (Rosita) bring their Sesame Street characters to life during a performance at Ramstein Elementary School in Germany October 14, 2010, as part of a USO educational tour. In a show of appreciation, €˜Elmo€™ and €˜Rosita€™ sang, danced, and interacted with military kids throughout their performance. (USO photo by Jackie Zettles)

“I am so proud to be a part of Sesame Workshop’s Talk, Listen, Connect Initiative and to have the opportunity to go on a USO tour to Germany and uplift the spirits of today’s military schoolchildren.  They, unlike most of today’s youth, often face an array of changes on a routine basis and it is nice to know they aren’t being ignored or forgotten.” – Kevin Clash, the puppeteer behind Elmo

Elmo and Rosita and the celebrated puppeteers who bring them to life, Baltimore native Kevin Clash and Mexico City native Carmen Osbahr, lifted the spirits of nearly 1,000 troops and military schoolchildren stationed at four military school in Germany!  It’s the first tour for both Clash and Osbahr, whose performances are an extension of the USO/Sesame Street Experience for Military Families in collaboration with Sesame Workshop, the nonprofit organization behind Sesame Street, and the USO.

As part of the ten performances they put on, Elmo and Rosita sang songs and interacted with military school kids.  They also danced and expressed their thanks to schoolchildren, in addition to helping the young children in the audience – most ages 2 to 8 –  cope with challenging transitions in their lives, such as deployments and when a parent comes home with a combat-related injury.

It was a fantastic, family friendly tour that won’t soon be forgotten. Check out more pictures below!

A student at Ramstein Elementary School in Germany hugs Sesame Streetâ€'s Rosita€ after a USO-sponsored performance October 14, 2010. Osbahr, who performs €Rosita,€™ began her relationship with Sesame Street as a teenager in 1985. Part of Sesame Workshop'€™s Talk Listen Connect program for military families, her other credits include Kiki€™ in The Puzzle Place, a role in The Adventures of Elmo in Grouchland and as Lily€™ in Johnny and The Sprites for the Disney Channel. (USO photo by Jackie Zettles)

Celebrated puppeteers Kevin Clash (Elmo) and Carmen Osbahr (Rosita) bring their Sesame Street characters to life during a performance at Ramstein Elementary School in Germany October 14, 2010. (USO photo by Jackie Zettles)

Sesame Street's €˜Rosita€™ (right) and Elmo pose for a photo after a performance at Vogelweh Elementary School in Germany October 13, 2010, as part of a USO educational tour. (USO photo by Jackie Zettles)

Kevin Clash head out into the crowd to let the children get up and close and personal with on of their favorite Sesame Street characters - Elmo, of course! - during a performance at Kaiserslautern Elementary School in Germany October 13, 2010, as part of a USO educational tour. (USO photo by Jackie Zettles)

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!

Phase IV of the Sesame Street/USO Experience Ends on a High Note

Kids giggled and parents snapped photos of the costumed characters during the Sesame Street/USO Experience for Military Families show at Ft. Knox, KY, on April 18, 2010. (USO photo by Pat McDonogh)

Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU to all of the military families who came out to join us for the Sesame Street/USO Experience this year!  From April to September, from North Carolina to North Dakota, this tour extended its run as the longest-running entertainment tour in USO history.  We couldn’t do it without the support of Sesame Workshop and VEE Corporation, and all of you who attend the performances.  Some fun facts from Phase IV:

  • 43 Bases visited
  • 139 Shows performed
  • 15,700 Miles traveled
  • 552,956 Giveaways received
  • 72,054 Service members and families attended

Altogether – since the beginning of Phase I on July 8, 2008 – the tour has visited 90 bases; performed 315 shows; traveled through 9 countries; logged 61,242 miles; given away 1,455,029 goodies; and entertained 192,650 service members and their families – way to go!

Help Support USO Hawaii’s Back-To-School Program

USO Hawaii is happy to announce that they’ll be making the back-to-school process a little better for military kids this year. Director Eva Laird Smith explained the importance of providing free backpacks and school supplies for military families to Hawaii News Now earlier this week. “This is a great opportunity for our community to show their aloha support for our military and their families with their children’s back-to-school needs. It will be one headache less, one challenge less on the homefront for our deployed troops,” said Laird Smith.

Click here to watch her video interview!

The community is encouraged to get involved: now through July 25, donations of new backpacks and school supplies appropriate for any age may be dropped off at the Pearl Harbor Navy Exchange Aloha Desk, ground floor, as well as the USO Honolulu Airport Center.  Click on the poster above for more information or to spread the word.

Online donations are also being accepted online or you can call William Johnson at (808) 836-3351 for information on making a donation via PayPal.

And if you’d like to be one of the families that receives these great back-to-school basics, contact USO Hawaii’s Programs & Marketing Manager Barb Troegner at (808) 256-7744 or via email.  Items will be available for distribution this Sunday from 1:00 to 3:00 p.m. at the Hickam Air Force Base Officers’ Club area.

Check out the flyer at left for more info on how to participate.  Aloha!

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!

The Sesame Street/USO Experience Heads to the Lone Star State

Five year old Seth Fasnacht (C) and other children gather near the stage at the end of the show to touch Elmo and the other characters. Fasnacht's father is a chaplain at the NAS. (Mark Matson for USO)

The Sesame Street/USO Experience for Military Families continues its Stateside tour…deep in the heart of Texas!  Military kids and their families enjoyed another fun-filled show, jam-packed with music, songs, and life lessons along the way.  We’re bringing you the latest pictures, from Corpus Christi, and encourage you to visit our Flickr set for more group shots from many of the Stateside tour stops.

The Washington Times recently reported on the tour, and the impact is has on military families: “The message has been helpful; [my kids] came up talking about their feelings,” said Luelisse Torres-Rodriguez, a mother of two whose husband is a major in the Army, often deployed for one to six months at a time. Her family went to the 25-minute show twice at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md., which “made [the children's] day,” she said.  “And it let me become a kid, too.”

Click here to see the full schedule for 2010 and check below to see if we’ll be in a town near you in July!

Fort Bliss – Texas – July 10 – 2:00 p.m. and 5:00 p.m.; July 11 – 2:00 p.m. and 5:00 p.m.
Cannon AFB – New Mexico – July 14 – 3:00 p.m.; July 15 – 10:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m.
Fort Hood – Texas – July 17 – 2:00 p.m. and 5:00 p.m.; July 18 – 1:00 p.m., 3:30 p.m. and 6:00 p.m.
Tinker AFB – Oklahoma – July 21 – 2:30 p.m.; July 22 – 2:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m.
McConnell AFB – Kansas – July 24 – 10:00 a.m. and 1:00 p.m.
Fort Riley – Kansas – July 28 – 2:00 p.m. and 6:00 p.m.; July 29 – 10:00 a.m.and 6:00 p.m.
Peterson AFB – Colorado – July 31 – 2:00 p.m. and 5:00 p.m.

A young fan reaches for a "high five" from Cookie Monster at the Sesame Street/USO Experience for Military Families on July 3, 2010 at the Corpus Christi Naval Air Station. (Mark Matson for USO)

Two year old Mario Matinez reaches out with his toy. He and his brother Victor and mother Marlene attended the show. His father Victor Matinez is serving in Afghanistan. (Mark Matson for USO)

It's fun for the whole family as (L-R) Tiara Mitchell (5), Macayla Elmore (3) and Aniya Elmore (6), play with their Sesame Street toys while waiting for the show to begin. (Mark Matson for USO)

Six year old Hailey Brown waves a big "hello" to Zoe - as always, wearing her beloved tutu - during the performance. (Mark Matson for USO)

Seven year old Lupita Vargas ties a USO bandana around her head as she gets ready for the Sesame Street/USO Experience for Military Families was presented July 2, 2010 at the Corpus Christi Naval Air Station. (Mark Matson for USO)