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Books on Bases Event in Wilmington, NC

Books on Bases, Blue Star FamiliesWelcome guest blogger, Gabrielle Lowe.

Last weekend we had the pleasure of being invited to Wilmington’s National Guard base to meet with guard families. I was joined by the Gabriel family and Claire Woodward, our BSF Executive Director. We passed out books from our “Books on Bases, Smiles on Faces” program to all the children in attendance.

We met with the spouses of guard members and told them about Blue Star Families. We put temporary tattoos on the kids, passed out books, and even got to dance to a live bluegrass band during lunch. I almost forgot, we even got to meet with the McGruff crime dog in the flesh …err fur?

While the children were there they also learned about what the Army National Guard is and what their parents do in the guard. There were mini classes given to each age group to explain what different jobs there are and to explain military life. We got the pleasure of meeting each child and give them a book from their age group. We also got a chance to talk to them and tell them a little about us and who we are.

Blue Star Families in conjunction K.I.D.S., United Concordia, and Lifetime Television’s Army Wives gives books to children of military parents. We also provide books to DoD schools, libraries, and public schools that have military children in attendance. We’re always looking for volunteers and we have many events coming soon. We encourage you to go to www.BlueStarFam.org to join us. It’s completely free and a great way to help better the lives of military families.




Reading, Roller Coasters & Resolutions!

Monday morning, my husband and I loaded up our 4 kids and headed out on a Blue Star adventure…


Our first part of the journey took us to Virginia Beach, Va to attend the kickoff of Blue Star Families, Books on Bases, Smiles on Faces event.  The kids were a bit restless after 3 hours in the car, but were a huge help in setting up.  Casey Spurr put my husband Joe right to work putting together the Blue Star Families banner, and my kids helped set up the craft tables and entertain the children of all our fabulous BSF volunteers.

Our program partner KIDS sent HUNDREDS of wonderful children’s books.  Nice, brand new books that any child would be thrilled to receive.  Janice Weinman, President of KIDS, flew down from New York for the event, and was a delightful addition to the day!  It was really gratifying to see so many smiling faces in the crowd.

We had the most amazing balloon animal maker.  He truly dazzled the crowd with his spectacular creations…Senator Warner’s representative even had him make one for her to take back to DC!  The children listened attentively to our terrific readers who shared children’s stories that focused on deployment.  At one point, during Col. Dennis Cunniffe’s reading, a small boy…maybe 2 years old, snuck up and sat next to him on the edge of the stage.  Perhaps his Daddy is deployed, and he was just needing to be close to a man in uniform.

We asked other non profits to come to the event and share what they do for military families.  Fleet and Family Services, the USO, and United Through Reading were there among others.  It was great to see that we made an impact on the families that attended.  On the way out, I spoke to a Mom and her 3 kids.  I asked the children, “Did you all have fun?”  They all smiled and said yes.  But more gratifying was the Mother’s response.  She said, “I had fun too.  And Happy Moms = Happy Kids!”  Indeed!

Roller Coasters:

We drove straight to Vienna, Va that night to sleep at a friend’s house.  He allowed us to treat his house like a hotel…in at 11pm, out at 8am!  We made it to Hershey Park by 10:30 and commenced “Operation Roller Coaster!”   My children are at the age where terrifying roller coasters are their favorite thing.  I have to admit that I enjoy them too.  In a moment of true “knuckle-head-ery” (as my husband calls it) I thought it would be fine to ride one of those crazy, twisty, 100mph, spleen in your throat roller coasters with my cell phone in my skirt pocket.   I was so dizzy after the ride, that it was an hour before I realized I no longer had my phone.  It was then that my darling aviator husband explained G-forces to me…in a not so kind way. I filled out a lost and found report, and began plotting my way out of the dog house.

Hershey Park (pretty good military discount, by the way) has a water park built in the middle, and it requires no extra admission, so we cooled off during the heat of the day with a ride on a water roller coaster (imagine water shooting at you from all directions!) and a float on the lazy river.   Ahhhhh.  On our way out, I figured I’d check with lost and found hoping to at least recover my cell phone chip.  Much to my surprise, they had my phone…intact!  It had a few mysterious dings, but other than that it was 100%.  I celebrated with a Hershey bar!


Blue Star FamiliesWednesday morning, Joe took me into Harrisburg to meet up with Vivian and other Blue Star Families members at the Pennsylvania State Capitol to witness the passing of a resolution declaring June as Military Families Month in PA.  It was put forth by one of our PA BSF members, and supported by Representative Lentz.

We were meeting early for breakfast at the 3rd street deli across from the capitol.  Joe entered it into the GPS and off we went.  When we arrived at our “destination” according to the GPS, we were in the middle of a not so great neighborhood and no capitol in sight.  Now, my husband refuses to believe that the GPS is EVER wrong, so it was sweet justice to have it screw up in his presence!  We finally found our way there, and I was thrilled to meet our PA chapter director, Cindy Smalls, whose son, husband and son in law are all currently deployed to Iraq with the Pa National Guard.  She is truly an inspiration, and a very motivated Blue Star volunteer.  Carole Singer, Carol Greentree (double blue star mom) Hal Donahue, and Jim White (BSFs Veterans guy) also joined us.

The House chambers are amazingly ornate.  It was wonderful to be there and watch government in action.  When our resolution came up for vote, the entire house stood, turned to face us, and applauded.  It brought tears to my eyes, and I know I was not alone!  Blue Star Members:  make this happen in your state.  Check out the “Take Action” section of our website to find out how.  It is a great way to elevate military family issues in your state!

On the way home we stopped by Gettysburg for a quick visit.  My husband had been many times, but it was the first visit for the children and me.  It was so moving to be on such hallowed ground, and the first time we had to pry our kids away from a museum.  And a great way to end our Blue Star adventure.

Books on Bases, Smiles on Faces

A military family enjoys a good book

A military family enjoys a good book

Yesterday, Blue Star Families and K.I.D.S. kicked off the inaugural Books on Bases, Smiles on Faces event as part of the White House’s summer service initiative, United We Serve. Military families attending the event were treated to activities like coloring a banner for the troops, coloring and decorating popsicle stick picture frames. There were balloon creatures to be had, temporary tattoos for everyone and cake. Lots of cake.

There were booths from organizations like Fleet and Family Support, FOCUS, United Concordia and the Armed Services YMCA, among others. The Chick-Fil-A cow made an appearance and BSF raffled off coupons and DVD’s from Lifetime Television’s Army Wives.

Oh and we can’t forget the BOOKS!

Service members and a representative from Senator Mark Warner’s office read for the kids and BSF and K.I.D.S. gave each of the kids a book to take home.

My kids had a great time, even if we did have to peel our 3 year old off of the ceiling a few times, and passed out in the car on the way home.  That is the mark of the perfect event for kids – exhaustion on the way home!

My littlest guy shows off his ladybug balloon creation.

To find out more about the Books on Bases, Smiles on Faces program and to see if an event is coming to your area soon, email Programs@BlueStarFam.org.  You can see more photos on the Blue Star Families Flickr page.