MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. --
Children learned that change and making new friends doesn’t always have to be a scary thing, while singing and dancing along with their “Sesame friends” during the Sesame Street/USO Experience for Military Families at the Bulldog Box Office, MCB Camp Pendleton, Aug. 14.
This Sesame Street/USO production’s message was different than the two productions previously held here. Where Elmo and his friends focused on helping kids deal with the emotions of parents deploying, a new character, Katie, was introduced to show children that moving to a new military base and making new friends can be fun.
“One out of three military families move every year, which is an extraordinary amount of change and a lot of burden on kids,” said Lonnie Cooper, the USO tour manager. “It can be scary and difficult when you’re young, and you’re just learning how to make friends.”
Katie was developed by First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden during the Joining Forces Rally in Columbus, Ohio.
“We did the kick-off for the Joining Forces Rally last year and when we premiered the new show and Katie,” Cooper said. “It was really fantastic to get white house support behind us.”
Camp Pendleton was number 38 of a 70 stop tour. Almost 700 Sesame Street fans attended the first showing to learn from Elmo and his friends.
“If you’re 5-years-old or younger, Elmo is your favorite monster on the planet,” Cooper said. “It’s sometimes hard to have that conversation with mom and dad about something as big as, ‘oh my goodness, we’re moving to the other side of the planet!’”
Being able to remind your child of what Elmo told Katie about change is a way to start those difficult conversations.
Another Sesame Street tool for communicating with small children is Talk, Listen, Connect (TLC).
The TLC videos feature Elmo and his “Sesame friends” talking to families about the military related changes and hardships they have gone through. “TLC was the kicker to get us together and talking about how we could do a project with Sesame Street,” Cooper said. “They know kids, we know military families and how to produce events for them, and it’s a natural fit.”
Children aren’t the only ones who Sesame Street is able to make a connection with.
“The Marines that volunteer behind the scenes are probably my favorite part, because they get so excited to come out and volunteer,” said Elizabeth Carty, Family Readiness Program trainer for Marine Corps Community Services. “I’ve had more of them say they can’t wait to see Elmo and the other characters more than anybody else.”
Staff Sgt. Jonathan Coffey, supply analysts for Headquarters & Support Battalion, Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, grew up watching Sesame Street and gladly volunteered his time.
“It’s nice that they’re doing something free for the families,” Coffey said. “The kids were up and dancing and they even had a kid get past security and up on stage trying to go hang out with the characters.”
For more information, visit: http://www.uso.org/sesame/