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Sesame Workshop Show Visits Bolling

Air Force Tech. Sgt. Chyenne A. Adams, 11th Wing

Sesame Street characters perform April 21, 2010, at Bolling Air Force Base, D.C., in an outreach program sponsored by Sesame Workshop and the USO that focuses on talking, listening and connecting for military parents and their children. U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Raymond Mills

BOLLING AIR FORCE BASE, D.C., April 21, 2010 – Few would dispute that children sometimes don’t listen. But military parents have a new friend to help, and he’s traveled all the way from Sesame Street.

Sesame Workshop, the nonprofit organization behind Sesame Street, partnered with USO to deliver special performances to military youth as part of its award-winning “Talk, Listen, Connect” outreach initiative.

Currently appearing here, the summer performance tour began last week and continues into September at military installations across the country. It provides resources and emotional support to military families with children ages 2 to 8 who are coping with challenging transitions in their lives, such as deployments and when a parent comes home with a combat-related injury. The program uses Sesame Street character performances to aid communication between adults and children through strategies and language that are child-appropriate and family-friendly.

“There is no one more famous than Elmo to a youngster, so who better to deliver a message to these military children?” said Lonnie Cooper, Sesame Workshop tour manager. “Elmo and his friends give credibility to the messages we’re trying to deliver to these military children. He provides a connection for the parent to talk about these things in a way the children can relate to.”

More than 350 parents and children at one performance here saw Elmo talk to his friends Rosita, Zoe, Grover and Cookie Monster about being sad because his “daddy had to go away for his job again for a long while.” The Sesame Street friends talked about ways Elmo could keep in touch with his dad and activities to help him feel better.

Crowd participation was encouraged from the gym floor full of children, who sang and danced along with their favorite characters. Kids received a keepsake from the show, while parents were able to pick up special resource packets that included a DVD and printed materials.

“I’ve spent more than 25 years in entertainment, and nothing has been as fulfilling as this,” Cooper said. “The whole idea is really amazing. Kids understand these guys, and they feel supported when their friends from Sesame Street understand what they’re going through and what they’re feeling.

“Another great part is secondary though – the entertainment value provided,” he continued. “These kids are having fun, and that is so great to watch!”

Darrilyn Young, Bolling’s child and youth program manager, agreed that the entertainment value was high.

“This is pure magic!” she exclaimed. “Look at these kids; they’re completely enthralled with everything these characters are saying. They deserve this – getting back to the basic joy of things. I even had parents telling me they enjoyed it more than their children.”

One such parent was Air Force Tech. Sgt. Michelle Frisby, 579th Medical Group, who brought her 8-year-old daughter, Alyssa, and 4-year-old son, T.J.

“My husband is deployed to Afghanistan until the end of July, so I wanted to bring them to this to see what they would get out of it,” she said. “There were some really good moments when I could see that they really understood about their daddy being gone and why. Overall, they really enjoyed it, and that’s what matters to me.”

T.J. said his favorite part was getting to give Elmo a hug at the end, because “he’s so soft!”

“We’re on our fourth leg of the tour and closing in our 100th base,” Cooper said. “The looks, the smiles, the pure joy is tremendous, and there’s nothing else we’d rather be doing.”

The initiative launched in 2006, and the show visited 46 bases in the United States last year before touring through Europe in the fall and Asia in the winter.

Almost a million free bilingual resource kits are being distributed worldwide, and can be ordered through the Military OneSource website at www.militaryonesource.com.

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