SCHOFIELD BARRACKS, Hawaii - More than 350 Soldiers and family members gathered at the Nehelani, Aug. 1, for an informative evening that highlighted programs offered by Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation (FMWR). Visual displays kept the interest of many as subject matter experts stood by to answer questions and provide information about the numerous programs offered to Soldiers and families. Children played games as parents enjoyed food, entertainment, free giveaways, and gathered a wealth of information. Additionally, sponsors gave away prizes, including the grand prize of a trip for four to Kilauea Military Camp in Volcanoes National Park on the Big Island."The FMWR expos are a fantastic way to allow Soldiers and families the opportunity to discover everything that FMWR has to offer here in Hawaii," said Sarah Horrigan, Army Family Covenant program coordinator, FMWR. "This year at the expo we are focusing in on the many ways (families) can "play in paradise" through our programs."To embrace the culture of Hawaii, family members picked up a string upon entering the expo to create handmade lei. Each booth offered information and a bead to complete the lei. "This is a great event," said Spc. Martin King, 225th Brigade Support Battalion. "My family is getting all of the information they need before I deploy. This is helpful to all of us." Entertainment, including storytime for children, a hula performance and numerous educational speakers, lined the stage to keep the morale of the event running high.More than 30 vendors, including Outdoor Recreation, Family Advocacy Program, Army Community Service and Military and Family Life Consultants, showcased new and revamped programs, reinforcing the Army Family Covenant's goal of providing Soldiers and families a quality of life that is commensurate with their service."A lot of families are staying on the island during vacation time," said Donna Van Winkle, director, Hawaii Army Arts and Crafts Centers. "We have so many creative activities for every member of the family, and we try to encourage families of deployed Soldiers to use our facility for scrap booking and other projects to savor moments while their Soldiers are deployed."Amanda Polingo, administrative assistant for the Teen Center, explained new programs offered for teens, including photography and art classes, as well as weekly field trips."We want to offer the kids something to do and give them the tools to do it," said Polingo. "This keeps them busy and allows them to explore the island."Sandy Salisbury, School of Knowledge, Inspiration, Exploration and Skills (SKIES) administrator, Child and Youth Instructional Programs, Child and Youth Services (CYS), excitingly shared new programs with family members including the upcoming "Rock School," which allows children to find their inner rock star and participate in a band by playing their choice of numerous instruments, including guitar, drums and keyboards."There are so many services offered and it's great to see everyone coming out to gain information," said Reference Librarian Mona Kwon, Sgt. Yano Library. "Seeing all the vendors at once gives you a better perspective on what the Army is doing to aid military families."Kwon spoke of the library's updated video game collection available for family members to check out, as well as numerous resources on neighboring islands.
"During these hard economic times we encourage people to explore Oahu and other islands," said Kwon. "We have numerous resources for family entertainment, and for everyone to learn something new."The expo also gave families of soon-to-be-deployed Soldiers a special treat by allowing them to pick up their Blue Star Card early for immediate savings and benefits."I think it great we can get all of our resources needed before my husband deploys," said family member Tosha Lovell. "It's a big help and will be while he's gone."A special addition to the expo this year included the free FMWR "PlayPlanner" calendars, which highlight activities and events in the next six months."We know that during the next six months many of our families will be coming down the home stretch of deployment and others just beginning deployment," said Horrigan. "We wanted to offer them a snapshot of the many things FMWR has available to them during this time."