By Crystal Lewis BrownJune 3, 2010
FORT JACKSON, SC -- Approximately 40 minutes before the 7 p.m. showtime, Sgt. 1st Class Edwin Maldonado, with the Columbia Recruiting Battalion, sat in the Solomon Center with his wife, Amanda, and son, Eric.
And though little was known about the content of the show, 3-year-old Eric did not hesitate to say whom he had come to see - Elmo.
Eric and his family were among the more than 700 children and adults who attended one of two free Sesame Street live shows, brought to post as part of a partnership between Sesame Street and the USO. More than 800 people attended the 4 p.m. show.
Lonnie Cooper, USO tour manager, said the partnership began in 2006 with a DVD titled, "Talk, Listen, Connect," which is aimed at teaching military children how to deal with deployments, homecomings and grief.
"It was so successful, they wanted to expand its reach," Cooper said. "While this is entertaining, there's also a message behind it. The kids get the message (that deployments are) a part of life; it's OK for Mommy or Daddy to go away for a while."
That expansion included a traveling show, which began in 2008 with a 40-installation tour, Cooper said. This is the first time the show has come to Fort Jackson.
Despite the holiday weekend, all of the show's 1,500 tickets were distributed. Cooper said he was not surprised.
"This is a great way to start off the weekend," he said. Plus, he added, "Elmo comes to town and people go crazy."
Edwin Maldonado said he was pleased to see that the USO was hosting a show at Fort Jackson, something he said he has not seen during the nine years he has spent here intermittently.
"(Fort Jackson)Aca,!E+is one of the biggest TRADOC installations so to have USOAca,!E+ ... here is great," he said.
His wife said she was surprised that the tickets, which were distributed at the Solomon Center and various CYSS locations on post, were snapped up so quickly.
"IAca,!E+was very shocked that they were ... out," Amanda Maldonado said.
Cindy Andre-Noel, with Child, Youth and School Services, said she was pleased with the turnout.
"A lot of times we miss out on things because they're too far away," she said. "To have (the show) come to us on our turf ... I think it is a great opportunity to experience some of the things (families) might ordinarily miss."
Cooper said providing such family-friendly shows is all a part of the USO's mission.
"The most important thing; it needs to be something free (and) it needs to be something that's open to military (families)," he said.
In addition to those families who attended the show, CYSS also provided transportation to those children who were using the CYSS extended-care services.
"If you're a (cadre member) who is working and can't bring your child, we're bringing them," she said.
The night of the show, attendees sat on the floor, in chairs and in bleachers, with adults and children alike dancing in the aisles.
Master Sgt. Chris Foster, a National Guardsman, sat alongside three of his grandchildren during the show.
"I think it's pretty good to do something for the kids," he said. "It's just something for the whole family."