KUWAIT CITY, Kuwait -- U.S. Soldiers in Kuwait, some from the Indiana National Guard, had an opportunity to visit and spend time playing with children coping with critical illnesses in two Kuwait hospitals on July 10.

Deputy Director Banafsheh Azizi and Volunteer Coordinator Basma Ismailand of the Kuwait Association for the Care of Children in Hospital (KACCH) organized the visit to help the children. An outgrowth of the program is new friendships between the Soldiers, children and hospital staff.

Soldiers volunteered to visit, socialize and play with in-patient children through the Every Soldier an Ambassador program. The program highly encourages Soldiers to develop a pathway for community outreach and social partnerships to increase understanding of each other's practices and customs. Participating Soldiers volunteered to share in a six-week rotation of KACCH play therapy with hospitalized children.

Spc. Maigen DiCristofaro is with Headquarters & Headquarters Company, 38th Sustainment Brigade, Indiana National Guard. She has a bachelor's in community health and is pursuing her masters in public health -- with a dual concentration in physical activity and behavioral, social and community health -- at Indiana University-Bloomington. DiCristofaro was extremely appreciative of the opportunity to spend her day interacting with the hospitalized kids.

"I had the opportunity to visit some of the strongest and most amazing children I've ever met at the children's hospital in Kuwait. Being able to be of service to all mankind is something that is near and dear to my heart, to give back by just playing and interacting with kids is something that is just natural to me," said DiCristofaro. "I initially went there ready to make their day but in return they left an even larger impact on mine. I'm very thankful for the experience."

The children are dealing with sicknesses of varying severity. The play day's goal is simple -- make the children's and family members' hospital stays a little easier. The objective is to make a kid smile, laugh and enjoy being young again and at the same time give the family members a moment to relax, breathe and watch their children have fun with their new playmates.

The children are excited and wait with open arms to welcome their new playmates. It helps them get through the day a lot better. There is no language barrier between the Soldiers and the kids at Al-Razi and NBK children hospitals because play and fun is a universal language. Ismailand and Azizi said, it's a simple concept with tremendous benefits. Children in the hospital are vulnerable to emotionally stress but are full of excitement and energy when playing.

Capt. Bryan Shivley, with Headquarters & Headquarters Company, 38th Sustainment Brigade, 1st Theater Support Cooperation, said, "It was a wonderful opportunity to give some joy to some children who need as much of that as they can get. There was no language barrier. She [the child] was happy to walk right up to us and get to playtime. It's a great program. I would encourage every Soldier to do it."