Operation C.H.A.M.P.S Founders Rev up for USO Tour to South Korea

Debbie and Jen Fink. Photo via operationchamps.org

Debbie and Jen Fink

Mother-daughter duo Debbie and Jen Fink, founders of Operation C.H.A.M.P.S and co-authors of “The Little C.H.A.M.P.S — Child Heroes Attached to Military Personnel,” are in South Korea on USO tour to talk with young children from American military families.

“There is just no greater honor, really … than to be partnering and working with the USO and to be taking this [programming] to these deserving un-sung heroes all over the world,” Debbie Fink said. “The USO gets it and the USO has the personnel to really take a vision and turn it into reality.”

From today through Sept. 23, the Finks and the USO, will greet about 2,400 military children at five installations throughout South Korea.

“I’m so honored to have the privilege to go on this tour and I can’t wait,” Jen Fink said.

Empowering Little C.H.A.M.P.S

During each 45-minute program, the elementary-aged kids will have the chance to participate in specially designed programming that blends math, English-language arts, sign-language, song and dance to directly address many of the unique challenges they face as military children.

LittleCHAMPSbook“What we aim to do is to provide support, comfort and gratitude to all elementary school C.H.A.M.P.S in [South] Korea that we have the privilege of spending time with,” Debbie Fink said. “It’s a pretty upbeat program carefully crafted such that it’s joyful — it’s a feel-good. They come in feeling great, they walk out feeling great with their heads up high in song.”

In addition to reading the “The Little C.H.A.M.P.S” book and singing the C.H.A.M.P.S song — the latter written by Jen Fink— kids will engage in interactive activities to learn how to cope with emotions, deal with changes and tackle any obstacles they might face as a byproduct of having a parent in the military. From identifying the plot and setting of “The Little C.H.A.M.P.S” to calculating the average number of family moves the group has made, each part of the program is specifically tailored to help military children understand what it means to be a C.H.A.M.P in a fun-yet-educational, way.

“Everything that we do is very intentional in terms of how it [relates] to the academics [and education requirements] of the school [system],” Debbie Fink said.

Each child will also receive a free copy of “The Little C.H.A.M.P.S.”

“Together the book and program really celebrates and validates our nation’s C.H.A.M.P.S,” Jen Fink said. “It celebrates the C.H.A.M.P.S’ family service to our nation, as well as celebrates and validates [their] emotions and coping mechanisms.”

Operation C.H.A.M.P.S: A Family Affair

While this is not the first Operation C.H.A.M.P.S tour, it will be the first time that both Finks, will be going on tour overseas together. Debbie Fink has gone on multiple USO tours overseas, including a visit to Europe in 2011 and Japan last year.

“To have a multi-generation experience … with Jen and to work together as a mother and a daughter team is very striking,” Debbie Fink said. “I know that when we hear [the children] singing the song that Jen wrote there will be a lot of tears shed behind the scenes because it’s an overwhelming, overwhelming experience to give children not only a voice, but to give them their song.”

To learn more about Operation C.H.A.M.P.S and their 2013 USO tour to Japan, check out the USO.org story here.

Our Youngest Donor Ever? 1-Year-Old’s Birthday Celebration Raises Funds to Buy In-Kind Snacks for Troops at USO Osan

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A birthday is a great reason to celebrate — and give back.

That’s exactly why Cherie and Air Force Capt. James Bell, parents of Collette Cruz Bell, decided to ask for donations to USO Osan in lieu of presents at their daughter’s first birthday. The Bells, who live on Osan Air Base, South Korea, raised nearly $100 to donate in Collette’s name, making her one of the youngest USO donors ever.

“My husband and I feel very blessed in that we are able to adequately feed and clothe our daughter,” Cherie Bell wrote in an email interview. “Consequently we thought that donations to the USO would be much better utilized than gifts for her first birthday.”

“We also wanted her to be able to have the memory later on of doing some great for others so that she will hopefully learn the joy in giving.”

Collette’s parents took the money and made an in-kind donation to USO Osan in the form of snacks, drinks and food for troops and their families to enjoy — something the Bell family knows will be appreciated.

“My husband and I have spent countless hours enjoying USO locations in airports and military installations,” Bell wrote. “Donating to the USO was our way of expressing gratitude to an organization that has always been there for us while also teaching our daughter a valuable lesson about giving.”

In addition to asking for donations to the USO for their daughter’s big day, the Bells threw a “Despicable Me”-themed barbecue for their friends, complete with a special banana-and-applesauce cake for Collette. The Bells also made a family trip to the beach as part of the birthday festivities.

Vice President Joe Biden Stops by USO-Hosted Picnic in South Korea

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Vice President Joe Biden – at the end of a diplomatic trip to Asia – dropped by Yongsan Garrison, South Korea, last weekend for a visit with service members. And despite the short notice, the USO was able to pull off a memorable meet-and-greet for hundreds of troops and their families.

“A highlight of the event was when [Biden] invited all the children to come up on stage to join him for his remarks,” USO Korea Area Director Tony Davis wrote in an email recap of the event. “Most of the kids had USO teddy bears tucked in their arms!”

The USO put on a picnic for nearly 500 troops and family members. The Eighth Army Band entertained the crowd while children had access to bouncy castles and a host of games. After speaking, Biden took time to mingle and pose for pictures with several attendees.

USO Pacific VP Harris Marks 25 Years of Serving Troops

USO Senior Vice President of Operations Alan Reyes presents USO Pacific Regional Vice President Carly Harris a 25-year service coin Friday at USO Arlington in Virginia. Photo by Samantha Quigley

USO Senior Vice President of Operations Alan Reyes presents USO Pacific Regional Vice President Carly Harris a 25-year service coin Friday at USO Arlington in Virginia. Photo by Samantha Quigley

Carly Harris is an ever-present supporter of America’s troops. On Friday, she got a little recognition of her own.

Harris, USO Pacific regional vice president, was honored for her 25 years of service to the organization during a ceremony Friday afternoon at the USO offices in Arlington, Va.

Harris’ USO career includes stints as director of operations for USO Europe, a leading role in the development of the USO’s presence in Southwest Asia, and the director’s post at USO Wiesbaden/Mainz.

Congratulations Carly!

USO Osan Opens in South Korea

Troops and USO staffers prepare to cut the ribbon to officially open the new USO Osan on Osan Air Base, South Korea. USO photo

Troops and USO staffers prepare to cut the ribbon to officially open the new USO Osan on Osan Air Base, South Korea. USO photo

A banner year for center openings and refurbishments continued Wednesday with the opening of USO Osan, a new location inside the Osan Air Base Community Center in South Korea.

USO President Sloan Gibson and Air Force Lt. Gen. Jan-Marc Jouas were among the officials who attended the ribbon cutting to open the new center.

From left, USO President Sloan Gibson, USO Pacific Regional Vice President Carly Harris and Air Force Lt. Gen. Jan-Marc Jouas speak at the event. USO photo

From left, USO President Sloan Gibson, USO Pacific Regional Vice President Carly Harris and Air Force Lt. Gen. Jan-Marc Jouas speak at the event. USO photo

“The USO has been an important member of the military family in Korea for more than 60 years,” Gibson said. “On the eve of America’s birthday, the USO is proud to recognize the service and sacrifice of our brave men and women and military families serving here, their constant vigilance protecting the freedoms for those of us at home.”

The center features many hallmark USO touches, including multiple, free ways to connect to loved ones back in the United States like Internet-ready computers and phones. The center will also offer core USO programming such as United Through Reading’s Military Program. USO Osan and nearby USO Camp Humphreys also plan to co-host large events like barbecues.

Visit the USO Osan Facebook page to keep up with events at the center.

–USO Story Development