Child Lights: Protect and celebrate
Children from the Heidelberg community cheer for the military police during a military working dog demonstration April 16.

HEIDELBERG, Germany -- Around 200 Heidelberg community members gathered at the Patrick Henry Village Pavilion April 16 for Child Lights - an event designed to protect and celebrate children in recognition of Month of the Military Child and Child Abuse Prevention Month.

"We know that military families have unique challenges, and so we have a unique opportunity to provide support to them," said Michele Barber, Heidelberg Family Advocacy Program manager. "We have a tremendous amount of resources that I think sometimes we take for granted and forget are there. We want to make sure that folks know who those folks are, so they use those resources and refer families who may be having difficulties or struggling."

Barber said besides the informational and educational booths, the night was designed to simply be a fun night for families, where kids could get their faces painted or participate in a family craft together.

"The kids got to participate in the finger printing and all that kind of stuff," she said. "It's not every night that you get to do these kinds of fun activities, so we wanted to bring the fun into it, too, not just the information but the fun. That's in keeping with our theme - protect and celebrate."

Angela Jones, a PHV resident, walked to the event with her daughter, Alexis-Marie, 11, and some of her neighbors.

"It's an awesome way to participate in community activities, and I think it's a great thing that they're trying to do with this being Month of the Military Child," she said.

"It's really important for the community to participate and have positive things to do with the families together, because so many Soldiers at this time are deployed, and you would hate for the family members that are still here to feel neglected and isolated," Jones said. "It's a really great thing for everybody to at least have the opportunity to come out to a safe family function that you can enjoy with your neighbors and get to know other people that are in the same situation that you are."

A large part of the evening was the participation of the military police and representatives from the Directorate of Emergency Services.

Staff Sgt. Reginald Smith and his military working dog, Sgt. 1st Class Jim, along with Sgt. Brian Collins, gave a demonstration on the lawn of the Village Pavilion, much to the delight of the children and even the adults in the crowd.

Inside, tables were set up with information on Internet and dating safety, fingerprint booths and Drug Abuse Resistance Education information, among others.

Master Sgt. Charles P. Cavanaugh, U.S. Army Garrison Baden-WAfA1/4rttemberg provost sergeant, said he appreciated the opportunity for the military police to give their demonstrations and participate in the information booth section of the event.

"Anytime we can get out in the community is a great thing," he said. "It's good to show everyone that we do more than just drive around in a car, but we are a part of their community, and we are here for them. This is just a small piece of the puzzle of what we do."

Barber said with the purpose of the event being to 'celebrate and protect' children, she hopes that participants not only enjoyed themselves but also learned something in the process, too.

"I think it helps us when we come to these kind of events, we are reminded about our responsibilities as a community to support these children," she said. "I think it's really important to get connected with your community, and hopefully by coming out and participating in the booths, they got to know the community partners that are out there, hopefully they got to meet some new people, have some fun, walk away with a lot of handouts and a lot of goodies and have a good time with their families."

(Editor's Note: Kristen Marquez writes for the USAG Baden-WAfA1/4rttemberg newspaper, the Herald Post.)

Page last updated Wed April 22nd, 2009 at 09:32