Thursday, May 29, 2008

America Supports You: Fort Myer Kids Get to Clown Around

By Samantha L. Quigley
American Forces Press Service

FORT MYER, Va., April 7, 2008 – Children normally are told to quit clowning around, but today it was actually encouraged, as clowns from Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey circus entertained more than 100 youngsters at the child development center here.

This is a great for our families,” said Army Col. Laura Richardson, garrison commander for the Fort Myer military community. “To be able to bring an activity like this … is awesome.”

Deployed troops, the ranks of whom include her husband, love to hear about events like this one, the colonel said.

“This is great stuff for out troops that are deployed, knowing that their families are getting to see things and have opportunities like this,” Richardson said. “It’s a win-win all the way around.”

For an hour, the children participated in antics dreamed up by the clowns, acrobats and dancers. They stood bravely between two of the tricksters while bowling pins flew over their heads during a juggling demonstration.

The giggles got even louder when the ones who had to be brave were some of their favorite adults who, at one point, had an acrobat flying over them.

Not everyone was as enamored with the red noses and floppy shoes as their classmates. Gavin Baltes, 2, found the whole thing a bit overwhelming and spent most of the show watching his classmates’ reactions over a caregiver’s shoulder.

By the end, however, everyone was smiling and dancing. During the “Bellobration,” a dance named for one of Ringling’s favorite sons, Bello the clown, the children and adults alike followed along as the entertainers led them through the moves.

Then it was back to their classrooms with big smiles on their faces.

Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey circus, which is currently performing at George Mason University’s Patriot Center, is a corporate supporter of America Supports You, a Defense Department program connecting servicemembers and their families.

“We’re grateful to Ringling Brothers for the great experience they are bringing to the children at Fort Myer,” said Allison Barber, deputy assistant secretary for internal communication and public liaison. (Also) for their continued commitment to America Supports You, as they bring laughter and smiles to the faces of our military children during April’s ‘Month of the Military Child’ celebration.”

Featuring a few veterans, the circus salutes the military and America Supports You during every performance, Barber said.

“This is a first for us to bring (the circus) to the day care here at Fort Myer,” she said, adding. “They’ve said, ‘Whatever we can do for the military community is what we want to do.’”

It’s important to recognize the service and commitment of the military member, the military spouse and the children whose parents are serving, Barber said.

“We try to put a lot of energy and lift into saying to the boys and girls, ‘You know, you’re serving, too. It’s different, (but) every time your mom or dad misses your soccer game or your ballet recital, that’s a sacrifice, too,’” she added.