MARINE CORPS AIR GROUND COMBAT CENTER Calif. -- As the red curtain at the Combat Center’s Sunset Cinema was drawn, the spotlights illuminated iconic American celebrities, known worldwide for positively impacting the lives of children for more than 45 years. The theatre was filled with Marines, sailors, spouses and their children, who were there not just to enjoy an afternoon of entertainment, but to better understand the story of the military child through song, dance and Jim Henson’s brightly colored Muppets. The Sesame Street/USO Experience for Military Families performed one of four shows for the Combat Center, Aug. 9, 2014
“Today we had a free show for military families,” said Nicole McClendon, Tour Manager, Sesame Street/USO Experience for Military Families. “This show lets military children know that the USO and Sesame Street are here for them and we understand that they make great sacrifices.”
The plot of the show was brought to life in 2011 and was specifically designed for military children.
“This show centers around a very special Muppet named Katie, who happens to be a military child herself,” McClendon said. “In the show, she’s just found out that her family is about to move to another base, which is something that all military families go through. Katie is very nervous about this, but she talks to (the Sesame Street characters) and they teach her how to stay in touch with the friends she’s already made and how to make new friends.”
Two teams of volunteers from the Bob Hope USO Palm Springs came to assist the tour’s visit to the Combat Center at all four showings, two on Aug. 8 and two on Saturday.
“This is beneficial to our military families in that they are always moving and it’s the children (who) take the brunt of it sometimes,” said Teresa Cherry, Center Manager, Bob Hope USO Palm Springs. “It can be very difficult because they are the new kid in school and it can be hard to make new friends. (The character) Katie helps the military child because they can relate to her.”
Sesame Street and the USO have collaborated on projects like this for many years and progressively tailored their mission to meet the needs of their military fan base. They began with a project called, ‘Talk, Listen and Connect,’ a DVD series for military families, which originated from Sesame Street’s Military Families Initiative. In 2008, they partnered with VEE Corp., responsible for arena tours like Sesame Street Live, and they created the Sesame Street/USO Experience for Military Families.
“It’s great because Sesame Street obviously understands kids and the USO understands military families,” McClendon said.
This is the second version of this show. In 2008, Sesame Street/USO Experience for Military Families performed their first show ever at the Sunset Cinema and that version of the show focused on the effects a deployment has on military families and how children could cope with a parent being gone for a long time. In 2011, the show was changed to its current format in order to broaden the focus to a topic that all military families experience; a Permanent Change of Station.
“I think it’s important to know that people like (those with) Sesame Street are behind the military,” Cherry said. “They do understand that it’s tough on the children and it’s tough on the family.”