USO, NASCAR Assemble 2,500 With You All the Way Kits for Children of Deployed Troops

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The USO partnered with The NASCAR Foundation twice in the last two months to host With You All the Way Kit assembly events as part of the second-annual “NASCAR: An American Salute” campaign. The kits will be distributed free of charge to children of deployed troops.

The events – on June 8 at Pocono Raceway in Long Pond, Pa., and July 5 at Daytona International Speedway in Daytona, Fla. – produced a total of 2,500 kits.

-Photos courtesy of NASCAR

With Her All The Way: USO Hawaii Helps Girl Replace Threadbare Bear

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Lana Griffin clutches her old and new Cuzzie Bears at a USO Hawaii area office. USO photo

You can only sew up a bear so many times.

That’s the dilemma one Hawaii-based family had when their daughter’s Cuzzie bear – a staple of Comfort Crew “With You All The Way” deployment kits – was hanging together by its last threads.

The Griffin family received the bear in a kit given to their son, Lucas, while living near USO Yokosuka in Japan. Their daughter, Lana, inherited the bear from her older brother and has toted it around the Pacific ever since.

Lana’s mother, Shawna, had been searching for a replacement for the bear, but couldn’t find one for a reasonable cost. The family eventually called USO Hawaii and explained the situation.

The staff at the USO dug out a new Cuzzie and had it waiting when Lana and her family arrived at the center.

“Seeing firsthand how meaningful USO programs are to our military families and the comfort they provide was so touching. It was truly a full-circle moment,” said USO Hawaii Programs Manager Kristin Tierney. “We often don’t get to share these moments with those we touch, and hearing the impact that Cuzzie Bear has had on this family just solidifies why we do what we do.”

You can read more about the significance of the Cuzzie bear here.

In other news around the USO:

  • USO Fort Drum was named the Greater Watertown-North County Chamber of Commerce Business of the Year in the “nonprofit, 50 or fewer employees” category.

–Story by USO Story Development

Trevor Romain Addresses Bullying with Military Children

For some children, “back to school” can mean back to bullies.

Bullying is especially common for military children who, according to the Military Child Education Coalition, move about six to nine times from kindergarten to twelfth grade.

So where’s the good news? Trevor Romain is setting out to help military children in Europe identify and change bullying behavior! During his USO tour, Trevor will also discuss how to recognize the signs that your child is being bullied (or is bullying others), how to talk to your kids about bullying and ways families can cope with this important issue together.

You can hear Trevor’s thoughts about bullying behavior and how to handle it and how Trevor discusses these problems with military children in his interview with the Department of Defense Education Activity.

Bullying Statistics

  • About 71 percent of students report bullying as an on-going problem they face at school.
  • Over half of all students have witnessed a bullying crime take place while at school.
  • A reported 15 percent of all students who don’t show up for school report it to being out of fear of being bullied while at school.
  • About one out of every 10 students drops out or changes schools because of repeated bullying.
  • About 282,000 students are reportedly attacked in high schools throughout the nation each month.

As a nationally-recognized children’s motivational speaker and author, Trevor will also share the USO’s With You All the Way program with military children. Through a partnership between the USO and the Comfort Crew for Military Kids and the Trevor Romain Company, this program focuses on helping children and families cope with deployment, reintegration, and what happens when a parent returns from combat with wounds, both seen and unseen.

People often forget about the sacrifices and hardships that are unique for military children. At the USO, we understand the difficulties military children endure and we are so proud to partner with Trevor in our mission to support and connect with our military children around the world.

Thank you Trevor!

- Sarah Camille Hipp, Communications Specialist

With You All the Way Hits Germany

We recently completed our spring portion of the With You All the Way tour. We spoke to about 15,000 kids, all of them overseas. This portion of the tour had somewhat of a bittersweet ending. The good news is that we get to rest a little bit over the summer. The bad news is that we are going to miss being around this brave group of kids for a while. Plus, a number of bases we visited are closing or consolidating, which means big changes for the military and many of the families.

Trevor RomainWe were in three cities in central Germany, Weisbaden, Heidelberg, and Stuttgart. The Heidelberg area is home to two elementary schools, Manheim Elementary school and Patrick Henry Elementary school. Manheim Elementary is closing its doors this year. Due to the army drawdown and plans for realignment in Europe, schools and bases are closing down. It has been open since 1946, and in the early nineties it had about 2,000 students. Today, there are only about 200, and those kids will be moving somewhere else next year. In fact, many are having to move now, back to the states. Many more know they are moving soon, but don’t know where they are going.

We spoke to one little girl, who towards the end of the presentation, finally had the courage to say something. Her dad was currently deployed, and she  and her mom were having to move to Colorado in the next couple of days. She was petrified, and rightfully so. I can’t imagine have my family be uprooted to a somewhere far away while I was deployed to Afghanistan and not able to offer any help. However, because the little girl had the courage to speak up, we were able to offer some assistance and expedite shipping of her USO family empowerment pack so she could have it for her travels.

Patrick Henry Elementary school is also going to close soon. These families are really in a state of flux because they know they are going to have to move but don’t know when and don’t know where. Living in this state of uncertainty is causing much stress on a lot of families. We had two great presentations at Patrick Henry. The kids were so engaged and had plenty to say. One thing that stood out in particular for me though, was a shy little girl in the back who had the courage to raise her hand.  We ask the kids what they learned during the video portion of our presentation. So she felt the need to say something. I asked, what she learned and very quietly but confidently said, “You don’t have to be in a special group to be special.” Wow, I hope everyone can learn from that.

Trever Romain consoles a young girl during his With You All The Way tour in Vicenza, Italy, recently.

We spent our last couple of days in Stuttgart. We had no idea how big Stuttgart was. There is about 5 million people in the city and surrounding area. Stuttgart is a beautiful city. It is where old meets new. Buildings that are 700 years old living happily with very modern buildings. We went to a school called Patch Elementary, on the Patch military base, which is a large army base. We had some really good presentations again. But we want to leave you with one email we received from a mom. It really makes us feel good about what we are doing and how important the work the USO is doing for military families:

 Dear Mr. Romain.  Thank you for coming to Patch Elementary School in Stuttgart.  My son did not stop talking about your visit all the way home in the car.  Then something happened when we got to the house.  You see my husband was hurt and he lost part of his leg and my son seems ashamed and angry about what happened. He always wanted to take his anger out by himself and stay locked in his room alone and did not want to deal with his dad.  And it was so hard for my husband.  He said that kind of pain was worse than his injury. Today when he came home my son wrote a letter to his dad and said he loved him and wanted to help him get better. I’m not sure what you said to him but thank you and Mr. Woody and the USO for your presentation and for helping our kids on the bases.  You just don’t know how much it means to us. I cannot thank you enough for your help.

Trevor Romain, Performer, Author & USO Supporter

Holding On To Cuzzie

Every now and then during our travels and presentations you come across a child that has a story that is very touching and inspirational. On this particular day, we were lucky enough to do the presentation at a theater in base housing in Sasebo. This one little girl comes skipping down the aisle holding a Cuzzie bear. We see this from time to time to time. It is very cool to see that because we know that she must have received one of our deployment kits. These kits are called the With You All the Way deployment kits. The USO gives these out to help kids with all phases of deployment. The Cuzzie bear is an integral part of the kit along with an animated movie and journal.

Trevor shows off a Cuzzie bear

Her teacher brought her over, carrying her With You All the Way journel along with her Cuzzie. She sat with me for a minute or two showing us what she had written and drawn in her journal. She also showed off a picture of her dad in full uniform, which she had glued it into her journal. She was so proud.  Her dad is currently deployed, but she seemed to be doing really well.

After she went and took her seat her teacher came up to and visited for a little bit.  The teacher wanted us to know she had really been using the kit and practicing some of things recommended in the DVD and journal.  Then the teacher shared something that had me tearing up with pride, joy, and also sadness.

On the day that the little girl’s father deployed she went with her mother to the ship that her dad was leaving on. Before he got on the ship the little girl sang, ‘Anchors Away’ to her dad. And as she sang, the little girl’s dad cried. I know that he couldn’t have helped but feel an overwhelming sense of many emotions. But he must have been incredibly proud of his little girl.

Trevor visits with military children overseas

Just seeing this little girl’s face and picturing that moment made me choke up instantly. And as I watched the little girl during that presentation I couldn’t help but get emotional. It is so gratifying to know that the kit the USO provided that little girl had such a positive impact on her deployment experience. And the way that she held on to her Cuzzie was absolutely priceless.

This was a great way to wrap up the second leg of the tour of the pacific region. Makes for a much shorter plane ride. - Trevor Romain, USO Entertainer and Children’s Author & Illustrator

Trevor Romain Visits Germany!

The USO and Trevor Romain are “With You All the Way”! (All photos courtesy of the Trevor Romain Foundation)

The USO’s “With You All the Way” tour is off to an exciting start! After returning home from the tour’s kick-off in Germany, Trevor Romain traveled to his first U.S. Army Post in Fort Riley, Kansas to present to elementary school children on difficult topics related to deployment, bullying, and making healthy emotional choices. Trevor will be presenting to thousands of military children and families over the next few years, and Fort Riley was a great place to begin the tour! The USO center, schools, and families were welcoming and informative. Trevor even got to experience real Kansas barbecue in Aggieville between presentations! Luckily, he and his team were in good company as they explored Fort Riley’s enormous base, and the surrounding areas.

Five elementary schools were able to participate in Trevor’s presentations, touching at least 800 students. Fort Riley has a great group of kids! It was obvious the children were supportive of one another and worked together as a team; true heroes indeed. The laughs echoed throughout each presentation as Trevor mixed in jokes with serious discussions about some pretty challenging situations these brave children are facing. Jack and Skye, Trevor’s animated characters, were also a main part of his act. Although Jack may have been a bit focused on his obsession with eating nachos, he made it clear to the kids how important it was for them to be a good friend and help each other during deployments.

Not everything was fun and games. Children offered personal stories of how their lives have been impacted by deployment and bullying. A few children even mentioned changes they plan on making to stop bullying from happening so their friends no longer have to experience the hurt that comes along with it. Tears, hugs, and laughter were present as children’s concerns were brought to light. Any special circumstances were documented in order for those kids to receive the appropriate support. Each child will receive their own personal kit with Trevor’s animated DVD’s, a journal, and “The Art of Caring” for the parents, with many thanks to the USO’s generous donations. Children were jumping for joy at the mention of this gift.

USO Fort Riley Center Director April Blackmon had this to say about the tour: “We were fortunate to have Trevor visit our USO and help distribute the comfort kits to our families while he was here to speak with the schoolchildren. His presentations were wonderful, and the kids/families really enjoyed it. He spreads such a positive message about expressing your feelings and it being okay to be upset with deployments – I think every military child would benefit from hearing his messages.

Personally, as an Army brat, it was difficult growing up in the Army world and dealing with my father’s deployments and especially his injuries. I didn’t know how to express my feelings, or that it was okay to feel the way I did, so I just distanced myself and turned off my emotions. I wasn’t sure how to talk to my parents about it, or how to ask for help when I was feeling down and worried and angry. I wish I had someone like Trevor to visit with back then, because I think it would’ve made a big difference. I hope that what Trevor teaches these children helps them tackle emotions head-on and results in positive outcomes for them. And I truly think it will…

And it was interesting, after his presentations to the schoolkids (which were great) they were drawn to children who needed some extra care. I watched as these kids cried and started to vent about their problems – which was good. And I thought it was good that they took the kids contact information and made sure each kid in extra need got a kit of some sort.”

Thanks, Trevor, for being with us all the way!  More pictures below…

Before leaving for volleyball practice, this 3rd grader takes a peak at Trevor’s journal. He keeps this book of meaningful doodles with him at all times.

The smiles and laughs were endless while Trevor interacted with military children. Afterward, kids line up for high-fives and a free deployment kit, sponsored by the USO.

Cuzzie - an integral part of the Dealing with Deployment kit - is all geared-up and ready to fly. He’s named Cuzzie… ‘cuz he cares’!

Cuzzies in hand, siblings give their biggest smiles. Each child also received a personal journal to write down their thoughts and feelings throughout their parent’s deployment.