By Elizabeth M. LorgeJune 26, 2008
WASHINGTON (Army News Service, June 26, 2008) - Instead of asking how to get to Sesame Street, Elmo and the gang will soon be asking how to get to Fort Hood, Fort Bragg and 41 other military installations across the country.
Sesame Street has partnered with the United Service Organization to launch "The Sesame Street Experience for Military Families," a live, free show that will help children and their parents understand the challenges of military life.
The 43-stop tour, which is scheduled to begin July 8 at Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center at 29 Palms, Calif., follows the April launch of Sesame Street's new videos for kids with deployed parents, "Talk, Listen, Connect: Deployments, Homecoming Changes." The story lines are designed to help Families understand and talk about the difficulties of multiple deployments, homecomings and changes in parents, whether physical or psychological.
"'Talk, Listen, Connect,' is especially exciting because it goes after our smallest servicemembers," said Edward A. Powell, president and CEO of USO world headquarters, at the tour launch today. "We know the price that they pay when mom or dad goes away. We know the anxiety. We also know the anxiety that they have when they come home. Mom and dad aren't the same, the kids aren't the same. Watching this program when we rolled it out at the Women's Memorial, it kind of choked you up to see the impact because the little kids in the audience...were riveted. And you could tell that that had their hearts and it was able to communicate to them in a way that no parent can."
Leslye A. Arsht, deputy undersecretary of defense for military community and family policy, said more than a million Families have been reached in the past two years, and according to Gary E. Knell, president and chief executive officer of Sesame Workshop, they've already received more than a quarter of a million requests for the second "Talk, Listen, Connect."
"They have helped young children and military Families in very caring, practical ways to address the impact of deployment," said Arsht. "This latest initiative, to reach out to our active-duty, National Guard and Reserve Families, live and in person, and close to home extends this very important work. Our military Families also serve and so do their children...Who, besides Elmo, Rosita, Grover and their friends, are better suited to talk to three-to-five year olds' I cannot imagine more credible, reliable and empathetic persons."
Children from the child development centers at Fort Belvoir, Va., Naval District Washington and Andrews Air Force Base, Md., were on hand for the launch, which included a sample performance from Elmo, Rosita and Grover. The monsters sang and danced and talked about missing loved ones, while the kids screamed "Elmo!" and raised light-up, spinning Elmos. Others sat motionless, entranced to see their favorite characters come to life.
"I miss my family," cried one child in response to Elmo's question about whether they felt sad because they missed their mommy or daddy.
The monsters talked about how to keep in touch: reading stories, writing letters and drawing pictures. Rosita suggested singing to each other on the phone or computer.
"I really liked the show," said Molly McKaig, adding that she especially liked Elmo, because red is her favorite color and he's "so red."
Parents agreed that the show was important to help kids understand injuries on their level.
"Who other than Sesame Street can provide meaningful information to an age group of children that desperately need to be informed, especially when they have a parent or a friend or a loved one who has been injured or is being deployed over and over' It's confusing. Sesame Street has a way of putting that so it's easier for everyone to understand." said Army wife Nancy Kules, who attended with her 13-month-old daughter Jillian. She and her husband, who was injured in Iraq, served on the advisory board for the videos.
"How better to ease their feelings for when one of their parents or both parents are gone and just the many, many different ways to cope with it'" agreed Col. Valerie Ratliff, military aid to Arsht. "What better way for them to cope with it than to see their characters, the ones that they're growing up with, to tell them how they should cope and deal with a parent that comes back that doesn't leave the same way'" She brought her adopted niece, Jhendayi Bryant, to help the five-year-old understand why her parents and aunt have to go away.
This is the first live outreach program in the almost-40-year history of Sesame Street, said Knell.
Tour dates (Subject to change. For latest information, visit
Aca,!Ac July 8, MCAGCC 29 Palms, Calif.
Aca,!Ac July 10, Davis-Monthan AFB, Ariz.
Aca,!Ac July 13, MCB Camp Pendleton, Calif.
Aca,!Ac July 14-15, MCAS Miramar, Calif.
Aca,!Ac July 18, NS San Diego, Calif.
Aca,!Ac July 19, NB Ventura County, Calif.
Aca,!Ac July 22, Beale AFB, Calif.
Aca,!Ac July 24-25, McChord AFB, Wash.
Aca,!Ac July 26, NAS Whidbey Island, Wash.
Aca,!Ac July 27, NB Kitsap, Wash.
Aca,!Ac July 30, Mountain Home AFB, Idaho
Aca,!Ac Aug. 1, Hill AFB, Utah
Aca,!Ac Aug. 3-4, Fort Carson, Colo.
Aca,!Ac Aug. 7-8, Fort Bliss, Texas
Aca,!Ac Aug. 10-11, Fort Sam Houston, Texas
Aca,!Ac Aug. 13-14, Fort Hood, Killeen, Texas
Aca,!Ac Aug. 16-17, Fort Sill, Okla.
Aca,!Ac Aug. 20-21, Fort Riley, Kan.
Aca,!Ac Aug. 23-24, Offutt AFB, Neb.
Aca,!Ac Aug. 27-28, Fort Leonard Wood, Mo.
Aca,!Ac Aug. 30-31, Fort Campbell, Ky.
Aca,!Ac Sept. 3-4, Keesler AFB, Miss.
Aca,!Ac Sept. 6-7, NAS Whiting Field, Fla.
Aca,!Ac Sept. 9, NAS Pensacola, Fla.
Aca,!Ac Sept. 10-11, Hurlburt Field and Eglin AFB, Fla.
Aca,!Ac Sept. 13, MacDill AFB, Fla.
Aca,!Ac Sept. 17-18, NS Mayport, Fla.
Aca,!Ac Sept. 19-20, NAS Jacksonville, Fla.
Aca,!Ac Sept. 25, Charleston AFB, S.C.
Aca,!Ac Sept. 27, MCB Camp Lejeune, N.C.
Aca,!Ac Oct. 1-2, Fort Bragg, N.C.
Aca,!Ac Oct. 4, NS Norfolk, Va.
Aca,!Ac Oct. 5, NAS Oceana, Va.
Aca,!Ac Oct. 7, Fort Eustis, Va.
Aca,!Ac Oct. 10-11, Fort Stewart, Ga.
Aca,!Ac Oct. 14-15, Fort Belvoir, Va.
Aca,!Ac Oct. 16-17, Andrews AFB, Md.
Aca,!Ac Oct. 18, Fort Dix, N.J.
Aca,!Ac Oct. 23-24, Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio
Aca,!Ac Oct. 26, Pittsburgh JARS, Pa.
Aca,!Ac Oct. 28-29, Fort Drum, N.Y.
Aca,!Ac Nov. 2, Camp Ripley, Minn.