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!

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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)

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.

“With You All the Way: Dealing with Deployment” is Now Available for Purchase!

We’re thrilled to announce that Trevor Romain’s “With You All the Way: Dealing with Deployment” is now available through Military OneSource!  We know that so many of you have been eagerly anticipating this release as much as we have.

Trevor himself penned a blog post for us awhile back, and had this to say about the DVD: “It deals with all stages of deployment; from pre-deployment, deployment, and re-integration. We teach the same main characters, Jack and Skye, how to help their buddies, Darrell, Brittany, and Pablo, deal with their families’ particular stage of deployment. Along the way, I interact with these animated characters and guide them through the story.”

The DVD is designed for children ages 6 through 10, but is equally valuable – and enjoyable! – for older siblings and parents.  We hope your family enjoy’s “With You All the Way” as much as we do and that it make deployments just a little bit easier.  Watch the trailer below!

Letters Back Home: Kid Edition

Today’s Letter Back Home isn’t quite that, but we knew we had to share it with you anyway.  It’s an actual letter that was written from a military child to Trevor Romain, one of our favorite people here at the USO.  His DVD “With You All the Way” is being shown to kids around the country and will be available on DVD at the end of the summer.  One young audience member was certainly touched by their viewing, and wrote Trevor to tell him how it changed her and her family’s life…