Story and photos by Téa Sambuco
1st Inf. Div. Post
Military children experience more goodbyes than most. Their lives are constantly changing as they move from place to place, always making new friends and new memories. Month of the Military Child serves as a reminder of what these young people do on a daily basis. To start the month, Child and Youth Services hosted Kidsfest, a two-hour long celebration at Riley's Conference Center in honor of military children.
"Month of a military child is where we honor military children, or really the sacrifices that they make to contribute to the military family," said Cheryl Greathouse, CYS programs operations specialist. "Kidsfest is one of our biggest events in the month of April ... and we usually see about 1,500 children come through."
"It supports military kids," said Kira Fidler, wife of Sgt. 1st Class Jerry Fidler, 1st Attack Reconnaissance Battalion, 1st Aviation Regiment, 1st Combat Aviation Brigade, 1st Infantry Division. "It's a free event for all the kids to come and hang out and be superheroes."
Greathouse said CYS is driven to give these children a "fantastic experience." Kidsfest was filled with activities for children, resources to programs that support them like Red Cross and Army Community Service and demonstrations of activities they can join, such as gymnastics.
"I think we have a little bit of everything for everybody this year," Greathouse said. "We have face painting. We have a whole sensory experience where they get to play in sand and water and foam. We have some crafts, some collage making (and) mask making, because the theme this year is superheroes."
Children immersed themselves in the superhero world at Kidsfest with a training course, which provided physical obstacles and photo opportunities with Captain America and Spiderman.
"I did superhero training and I did virtual reality," said Yzabell Padilla, daughter of 1st Sgt. Jose Padilla Guzman, 2nd Battalion, 70th Armored Regiment, 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division. "(Then) we went downstairs and took photos."
Her mother, Dayni Padilla, said this was their second year attending Kidsfest.
"I just really appreciate what CYS does for our children," she said. "Just to give them that extra love that they need. Seeing the community and the staff come together and have a great activity event for our children, I appreciate it."
The event's superhero theme piggybacked off of the theme for the Month of the Military Child, which is Military Kids Can.
"It's really emphasizing everything that our military kids can do," Greathouse said. "They just (have to) set their minds to it. (It is also) about how resilient they are and just that unlimited potential, unlimited opportunities. We're here to support that and help them to be everything they can be."
She explained how military children have to be resilient. They endure their parent's absence due to deployment and constant table-turning changes.
"Change is constant in the life of a military family and kids are right there," Greathouse said. "They're supporting their Soldier, parents, just the constant change. They really tend to just kind of roll with the changes, and (we're) just honoring that and recognizing that … it's not always easy."
Throughout the rest of the month, Greathouse said there are more opportunities to honor these children at events such as family movie night, April 12; the pancake feed, April 13; the parade, April 19; and the Superhero Saturday Flash and Dash Run, April 27.