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Elmo and friends reach out to military children

Characters from the Sesame Street/USO Experience for Military Families, a free traveling USO show, performed for Peterson Air Force Base military families July 8 and 9 at the base auditorium. (U.S. Air Force/file photo)

Characters from the Sesame Street/USO Experience for Military Families, a free traveling USO show, performed for Peterson Air Force Base military families July 8 and 9 at the base auditorium. (U.S. Air Force/file photo)

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- By the end of this year, one in three military families will move to a new base.

"(Permanent changes of station are) an enormous amount of change and the kids tend to be the ones who get the brunt of it in a lot of ways," said Lonnie Cooper, Sesame Street/USO Experience for Military Families tour manager.

In 2008, the USO partnered with Sesame Street to create a resource for military families. "(Sesame Street) knows kids, and we know how to serve military families. It was a natural fit," Cooper said.

To help teach young children to navigate the stress of leaving behind friends and moving to a new place, Elmo and his friends stopped by the base auditorium July 8 and 9.

Katie, a military child, visits her friends Elmo, Grover, Rosita and Cookie Monster one sunny day on Sesame Street. The day isn't so sunny for Katie though. She is sad because she just found out her family is moving to a new base.

"The other characters help her understand how to keep up with her friends and make new friends, how to deal with what can often be a scary and big part of military life," Cooper said.
The show had kids and parents up out of their seats, dancing along with the characters on stage. Elmo and pals told Katie that she could stay close to them by writing letters, calling on the phone, and video chatting on the computer.

Champ Watson, son of Staff Sgt. Lucas Watson, 50th Space Wing communication squadron, said his favorite part of the show was seeing Cookie Monster. "He's a big one!" Champ said.
Bridget and Genevieve McEachern, daughters of Staff Sgt. Jason McEachern, 21st Medical Group medic, said their favorite part was getting up at the end to meet the characters.

"My kids really like Sesame Street so it was nice to see the characters, and it was a really interactive show," McEachern said.

Families play a vital role in the well-being of service members and by facilitating healthy communication they build strong relationships they can take with them wherever their career may go.

"We view (the show) as a resource for people to start having conversations with their kids," Cooper said. "Sometimes when you're trying to tell your kids something, they're not always listening. It helps to be able to say, 'Hey, remember what Elmo said about that.'"

At the performance, Sesame Street light up toys and USO bandanas were passed out to children.

The Sesame Street/USO Experience for Military Families is based on a workshop called, "Talk, Listen, Connect: Deployments, Homecomings, Changes." It is an educational outreach initiative that addresses the needs and concerns of today's growing military families as they face higher deployment rates. A DVD of the workshop is available through Military One Source.

For more information about the Sesame Street/USO tour visit www.uso.org/sesame.

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