By Ms. Brittany Carlson (IMCOM)June 28, 2012
FORT LEONARD WOOD, Mo. -- Fort Leonard Wood's USO served up lasagna with a side of old-fashioned fun at the monthly Family Game Night Friday.
Attendance hit a record-breaking 441 as community members filled the USO for an evening of quality Family time.
"It is a fun time just to be with the kids, to have a free meal that we don't have to worry about … and just have time to play with the boys," said Janet Shepard, who brought her husband and two sons, Sean, 7, and Ian, 4, to the event. "It's a good atmosphere."
The Shepards started the night with a classic game: Monopoly.
"For 4 and 7, they're both doing really good with it," Shepard said of her sons.
During Family Game Night, the USO has a carnival-like atmosphere, with a board game on every table, a face-painting area and a craft corner. There are also plenty of giveaway items throughout the night, including a free toy for every child, and bags of snacks, baking mixes and sunscreen for adults.
Families normally pick up dinner at the USO kitchen first, then choose a table with their game of choice on it, such as Candyland, Operation, Yahtzee or Scrabble.
"It's just a laid-back atmosphere," said Kelly Brownfield, Fort Leonard Wood USO facility manager. "The whole idea is to bring our military Families together in hopes of creating stronger bonds between parents and children."
"We also fill the USO with more than just board games," she added. "We put out jump ropes, Twister, hula hoops. We even have a giant-size tic-tac-toe (board) on the floor for the Families to play."
On Friday night, the Tromblee family wasted no time in starting a game of UNO.
"It's fun, except Dad's winning," said 11-year-old Abbie Tromblee.
Abbie's mother, Mary, said the USO provided her Family with the chance to spend time together away from the normal distractions like computer games and the Internet. "It was nice," she said. "We've got games at home; we just don't do them very often."
Many children headed straight for the craft corner, where they donned aprons and goggles and chose a build-it-yourself kit to work on. Lowe's in St. Robert donates the kits each month for Family Game Night, Brownfield said.
Soldiers in Company D, 554th Engineer Battalion and Sailors from the Center for Seabees, Facilities and Engineering Detachment Fort Leonard Wood volunteered for the event by helping children build crafts, working in the face painting area or picking up trash.
Later in the evening, Colton's Steakhouse offered dessert -- brownie sundaes -- and handed out more than 350 gift cards, as well as Colton's merchandise.
In all, it was the largest game night event held to date at the USO, Brownfield said.
"The Fort Leonard Wood USO started hosting our monthly Family Game Night in May 2011 and they have been growing ever since," she said. "Since we started, we have served over 3,000 military service members and their Families."
She said she hopes the trend continues, not only because it helps Families bond, but because this event strengthens the community.
"We have found that many of the Families that come to our game nights have formed friendships, which is important in the military community -- just to have that general support of your neighbors and friends," she said.
The next USO Family Game Night will be from 5-8 p.m. July 27.
For more information, call the USO at 329.2039.