Army befriends youth home
February 14, 2012
CAMP RED CLOUD -- An Army unit in Area I that recently started a goodwill relationship with a local youth home took things another step Feb. 3 when it hosted the youngsters for a high-energy afternoon of bowling at Camp Hovey.
The unit, Army Field Support Battalion-Korea, began a friendly relationship with the My Home Orphanage in Dongducheon just months ago. The battalion is a logistics unit headquartered at Camp Mobile.
The home's 30 youngsters range in age from nine to 19. Some are orphans but others entered the home because of one or more domestic problems -- abandonment, physical abuse, parental alcoholism and economic instability, among others, said its director, Hwang Nho-hak.
"We were searching for 'how do we go out to the community and make a positive difference?'" said the battalion's deputy commander, Robert Valencia.
Their first big event in the relationship was a Christmas party in which the battalion gave the kids lots of presents and donated money for much-needed fuel oil.
The party was a big success and the unit decided to follow it up with the bowling visit, Valencia said.
The youngsters arrived by bus on a cold, sunny afternoon at Hovey, where hard snow crunched underfoot.
As they filed into the bowling alley they were greeted at the door by Lt. Col. Benny Starks, the AFSBn-K's commanding officer, and Master Sgt. Petra Casarez, its senior enlisted advisor.
Once indoors, Michael King, a logistics managements specialist with the battalion, welcomed them with a smile.
Because there weren't enough size -small bowling shoes to go around, King had them remove their shoes so they could bowl in their socks.
The youngsters were all over it.
Within moments the bowling alley echoed with young laughter, and soon after that, with the rumble of bowling balls and the hollow knock and clatter of tumbling pins.
Almost immediately one girl got a strike and threw her arms up in jubilation.
There was plenty of that the whole time -- shouts of excitement, arms waving, laughter, happy chatting and joking among the youngsters themselves.
Later, the kids sat down to hamburgers with lettuce and tomato, French fries and soda, but the bowling never stopped.
"These American foods are amazing and the bowling is fun," said one of the youngsters, Kim Bo-young, 15. "I would love to come here again and go bowling."
As the visit neared its 3:30 p.m. close, the group gathered round a big cake baked for the occasion.
Before cutting the cake, Starks had the youngest of the visitors join him in cutting it, first explaining to the group the military's practice of having formal cake cuttings performed by two people, the most senior and most junior of those present.
The battalion plans to hold quarterly events with the youth home, Starks said.
"We'd like to make it an extended relationship," Starks said of the home, "make them part of the AFSBn-Korea family."
King could tell the kids had fun.
"I believe they had fun, especially bowling in socks," said bowling alley manager Reme DeJesus. "You could tell from the kids' faces."