Elmo Visits Military Kids to Help With Deployment Stress

By Samantha L. Quigley
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, June 26, 2008 - Sunny days will be just around the corner when Elmo and his friends bring "The Sesame Street Experience" to 43 military installations to help children trying to cope with parents' deployments.

Excited youngsters from the Andrews Air Force Base, Md., and Fort Belvoir, Va., child development centers who couldn't wait to meet their TV friends got a sneak preview when the program launched here today.

The new live program adds a new dimension to Sesame Workshop's "Talk, Listen, Connect," DVDs for military children facing deployments, said Gary Knell, the Sesame Workshop's president and chief executive officer. He compared the 60-minute program to an adult concert featuring "The King."

"It's sort of like an Elvis concert for 2-year-olds," Knell said. "We'll have Elmo and Rosita and Grover and Cookie Monster [and Zoe]."

While the show promises to be fun for all, it also has a serious purpose: to help young military children learn how to better handle a parent's deployment. Few are better qualified to put that message into terms kids can understand than Sesame Street characters, said Leslye Arsht, deputy under secretary of defense for military community and family policy.

"The muppets have a way of talking to 3- to 5-year olds and their parents that talks right to the heart," she said. "Nobody could do it like they can do it."

When parents and children attend "The Sesame Street Experience," the children learn and be entertained, and the parents will walk away with new tools to help their children.

"The packages that are going to come with the [performance] include both [Talk, Listen, Connect] DVDs, and some additional materials ... that can guide the conversation that they need to have with their children," Arsht said. "The real opportunity here is for military families to see that Sesame Workshop, like America, really cares about them and knows that being separated is really hard.

"And it is no matter how old you are, and we all need to learn strategies for coping and being strong and having courage around those difficulties," she added.

While the Defense Department and corporations have lent support so that the Sesame Workshop could provide the content, it's the partnership with United Service Organizations that will help get the muppets in front of their adoring fans.

"The way that we help is with our relationship with the military and our access to the bases," said Ned Powell, USO president and chief executive officer.

"The Sesame Street Experience" is the second time USO has partnered with Sesame Workshop. "We did do the 'Talk, Listen, Connect,' program with Sesame Street earlier this year, and now we're rolling out the tour," he said.

It's an exciting partnership, Powell added, explaining that working with Sesame Street has expanded its breadth of volunteers. "We go from [comedian] Robin Williams and [country singer] Toby Keith all the way to Elmo and Rosita," he said.

But it's all in a day's work for both Sesame Street, which has educated children for 40 years, and USO, which supports troops.

"That's our job, to help foster that peace of mind, as well as say thank you," Powell said. "Why not say thank you to the littlest members of the armed forces."

The USO is a supporter of America Supports You, a Defense Department program connecting citizens and companies with servicemembers and their families serving at home and abroad.

*Related Sites:*
The Sesame Street Experience  [ ]
United Service Organizations  [ ]
Elmo Visits Military Kids to Help With Deployment Stress [ ]