FORT JACKSON, S.C. -- As cupid takes aim for this year's Valentine's Day, Fort Jackson's Child, Youth and School Services offers military parents - or other adult caretakers - the opportunity to celebrate the holiday of love with their children during a Sweetheart Ball, 7 to 9 p.m., Saturday, at the Joe E. Mann Center ballroom.

"The event is just a way for parents to get out with their children and make them feel special on Valentine's Day," said Leslee Rivard, CYSS, who is involved in the preparations for the ball.
Rivard explained that the idea for the ball, which is financed through the Army Family Covenant, was inspired by "daddy-daughter" dances held at a number of off-post schools.

"It's something that's done at the schools, but it's never specifically targeted to military families," Rivard said.

Because in many military families, one parent is deployed or working long hours, participation in the ball is open to grandparents, aunts and uncles or any other special adult in the children's lives.
Jeron Bailey, CYSS, said she hopes the event will provide a bonding experience between the children and the adults. A photographer will take photographs of the "couples" under a decorated arch. The photos will be put in a photo sleeve and will be ready to take home the same evening, Bailey said.

As with any ball, "couples" will have ample opportunity to dance. The music will be provided by a DJ and will consist of choices appropriate for all ages. In addition, arts and crafts activities will be available and refreshments will be served.

The event is free and open to the Fort Jackson community. Space is limited, though, and tickets must be picked up before the ball. Tickets are available at all on-post child care facilities, at Parent Central Services and at all other CYSS facilities. Ballgoers are encouraged to dress in semi-formal or formal attire or Class A uniforms.

"We encourage all the families, if you live off post or on, to attend," Rivard said. "We're hoping that the children feel ... handsome, they feel beautiful, they feel special - that they feel attended to on this holiday that sometimes is only about couples."

Rivard, who is expecting her first child, said she hopes the Sweetheart Ball will become an annual Valentine's Day staple on Fort Jackson - one that her daughter can attend in the future.

"Hopefully she'll go to a dance with her father someday," she said.