By Chelsea Place, Pentagram Staff WriterDecember 14, 2011
Children from the Washington metropolitan area military community flocked to the Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall Community Center Dec. 3. The United Service Organizations with the assistance of a private health care provider hosted the 25th annual Celebration of Children Christmas party, aimed toward children of lower enlisted ranked deployed parents.
Approximately 250 children attended the event from Fort Meade, Fort Belvoir, Indian Head Base, Md., Fort Detrick and JBM-HH.
Transformed into a winter wonderland, one could hardly recognize the community center ballroom with all the Christmas decorations and games.
On stage sat Santa and Mrs. Claus asking children what they wanted for Christmas. The couple passed out stuffed animals and posed for pictures. The entire middle area was made into an arts and crafts section. The outer walls were occupied by various games where children could win prizes for playing. Other events included two moon bounces, face painting, balloon animals and a holiday-themed piñata section.
"It's all for the children, and they like it," said Lani Vanhausen from Fort Belvoir. "The kids love to be with Santa. That's the first thing they asked [about], to take a picture with Santa."
For some, the event wasn't only for children with parents who have deployed, it also helped bring together Families who have had a parent deploy many time over the holidays.
"I missed so many years -- Christmas, things like that -- so now I'm trying to catch up for all that time," said Sgt. 1st Class Fernando Mattei, from the Uniformed Service University at Fort Meade.
While most kids were happy to get off the buses and be greeted by their favorite cartoon characters, others were a little hesitant about the Christmas party.
"We have a couple of little kids that had their heads down and didn't look up. After the first half hour in the room, they were a completely different child," said Erika Greaves, national chairperson for the event.
Before leaving for their respective buses, children received a gift bag containing an age-appropriate book, board game and a sports ball, such as a soccer ball.
"It's so fun because you get to meet Santa, do fun crafts, get face-painted and get free prizes," said Dima Gilmour, 12, from Fort Belvoir.