BAMBERG, Germany - A U.S. Army Garrison Bamberg Child and Youth Services program is giving children and their deployed parents something to hold on to this Valentine's Day ... each other.

"Project Sweet Dreams" gives children an opportunity to make and send a personalized pillow to their parents downrange and to receive one in return. Project coordinator Kim Kozel, CYS school liaison officer, is hoping the exchange will help lessen the distance that is felt between a child and their deployed parent, especially at bedtime.

Kozel and the School Ages Services staff helped the children make the pillows by creating transfers of their photos and artwork and ironing them onto pillowcases. The message on the pillow says: Someone in Bamberg loves you!

Tucked into each individually wrapped package are a tin of sweet treats and a note requesting a picture of the child's parent.

The Valentine's Day packages mark the first phase of the program, according to Claire Aljunaibi, School Age Services director, as approximately 50 pillows have been mailed downrange. "The program will come full circle when the child receives a pillow with their parent's photo on it," Aljunaibi said.

The project's aim is to help ease a child's mind during a long separation, as a pillow is something tangible to a child. It gives children something to hold and to hug, explained Aljunaibi.

Prior to the initial mailing, the children grabbed their pillows and wrapped their arms around them, getting in as many hugs as possible before packing them away. "We're going to send these downrange to your dads," Kozel said to the children.

"Or moms, Miss Kim!" exclaimed Winnie Tataw. This 7-year-old had a lot to say about her pillow, which much to her delight is on its way to Afghanistan, to her mom, Sgt. Glory Tataw, 173rd Brigade Support Battalion.

With excited youngsters clamoring around her, Kozel explained how the idea of organizing the Bamberg project came to her last fall. Having never personally experienced a deployment, she admitted she couldn't imagine what Soldiers must feel while being separated from their child for so long. But after sending her daughter off to a first semester of college, she understood, and her thoughts turned to Soldiers downrange.

For parents, she said, the pillows are a nice way to collect your thoughts before going to bed, to leave the day behind, and to focus on what is away from you. She realizes servicemembers have much more to worry about - and a longer separation from their child - but now relates by calling her experience "my educational deployment," adding that she is grateful to be able to see her daughter at the end of every college semester.

The first picture from a parent downrange recently arrived. Kozel quickly created pillows for Sgt. 1st Class Alfredo Woods, equal opportunity advisor, 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team and presented them to his 7-year-old twin sons, Kamron and Kareem Woods. The message on the matching pillows says: Someone in Afghanistan Loves You!

After presenting the pillows to the twins, she assured the other children that more would be arriving soon.

Kozel looks forward to receiving the pictures and helping create sweet dreams for every child. "It gives me a sense of doing something that's very, very small when the (Soldiers) are doing something so big for us," she said.

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16