Sesame Street/USO Experience helps military families

On July 1, the characters of Sesame Street made two appearances at Northridge High School in Layton for military families. This show, the second ever at Hill Air Force Base, was put on by the USO in an attempt to impact military families and especially their children who may have questions, confusion or difficulty with all of the change and moving involved with military life.

Children were welcomed to the show with American flag bandanas and Sesame Street light-up toys. Eyes lit up as Elmo and a few other members of the Sesame Street gang ran out on to the stage for singing, dancing and an important message about military life. 

This was a “live performance specifically created to help military children understand changes in their lives,” said Paula Speth, Information, Ticket, and Travel Director at Hill AFB. “Katie, Elmo’s newest military friend, is sad because she is having to relocate to a new location with her family, but her Sesame friends are there to help through the difficult transition by seeing the upsides to relocating to a new post.” 

This interactive show asks children to identify how they feel about situations in their lives. Speth notes, “The goal is that the show will begin a dialogue for a child or amily, which will continue beyond the show.”

The performance couldn’t have come at a more critical time for the Steele family, who traveled from Logan to see the show. Army Engineer, Mike Steele is being transferred to his next assignment in Kansas, and they are in the midst of packing. For their five-year-old daughter and two-year-old son, it was a much-needed message.

“My daughter is having a hard time with the thought of leaving all of her friends and our extended family here,” Steele said, “so I appreciate the support that is out there for the military families in our situation.”

Five-year-old Julia Steele learned a great deal from Elmo and his friends to help her cope during the move.

“Just like I made new friends here, I’ll make new friends there too,” Julia said. “I can still be friends by sending letters.” 

For Julia’s Mom, Kandra Steele, the show was excellent because her kids just love the Sesame Street characters, so they can relate to the show. “For them to hear those terms about moving helps them understand, and helps put those ideas in their head about what they can do, and that it’s okay to feel sad, or whatever you need to feel.” 

The Sesame Street/USO Experience staff encourages conversations beyond the performance by offering stickers, pamphlets, and workbooks before and after the show for families to take home and discuss. These resources offer fun ways for children to express themselves in ways they may not have otherwise been able to.

Event coordinators noted, “since its debut in July 2008, the Sesame Street/USO Experience for Military Families has taken its message to more than 420,000 troops and military families and performed 735 shows on 144 military bases in 33 states and 11 countries.” 

“The show is produced in partnership with VEE which is based out of Minneapolis, MN,” Speth said. “Anja Young plays Katie, the newest military character. Anja instantly had a connection to the show because she grew up on military bases and knows what it is like to move frequently.” Coordinators enjoy hosting these events because “children in military families move six to nine times between kindergarten and high-school … it is always fun to see the children and how appreciative they are.”

This once in a lifetime experience for many of the children, offered an evening of fun, and joyful singing and dancing were abundant in each of the performances that were hosted. Families can get more information, support and resources for their children at http://uso.org/get-involved.