Making Military Life Easier for Families in the Pikes Peak Region

Military families face many challenges, from frequent moves and deployments to the difficulty of putting down roots somewhere and really feeling like a part of the community. The mission of the Southeast & Armed Services YMCA is to make military lives easier, with primary focus on lower enlisted service members providing free or low-cost events and programs the reduce stresses of military life and promote resiliency.

The Colorado Springs Pikes Peak Region is one of only four cities in the country that serves four or more military bases (the others being Honolulu, San Diego and Norfolk), making the mission of Southeast & Armed Services YMCA even more vital for our community.

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The Southeast & Armed Services YMCA provides various programs that supplement or compliment programs already in place on base installations.

One of the unique programs offered by Armed Services YMCA is Operation Kid Comfort. When military service member parents are deployed, eligible parents can request for a FREE quilt or pillow made by quilter volunteers. These quilt or pillows bring comfort to children that include pictures of their deployed parent, so they can help bring comfort close and help ease the stress of military life.

Operation Kid Comfort has created more than 1,300 pillows and blankets for the children of deployed soldiers since it was brought to the Pikes Peak Region in 2009. One of those smiling kids was Elena Mendez. She’s only 20 months old, but when she got her sunshine-yellow quilt, she picked out the pictures of her dad right away.

“This quilt is going to be dragged with us everywhere across the house,” her mom, Blair, laughed. “It will definitely help…we have pictures, and we FaceTime, but this quilt will be readily available, so now she can see her dad more.”

Blair said the quilt was especially important to her as a mom because she was afraid that Elena would forget her dad.

“All the technology, it helps, but programs like this give you ideas you’d never have, and this quilt gives us another way to have Dad around more,” she said. “We just so appreciate the people who put their time and effort into this to help us.”

Another family who recently picked up their quilts got two – one for five-year-old James and one for his year-old sister, Briella.

Their mom, Cecilia, said that she loved how the Southeast & Armed Services Y is always there to invite her family to events like the military family dinner, or breakfast with Santa, making sure her kids gets presents for Christmas.

“It’s nice to know there are helpful people out here,” she said. “I love the way they treat me at the Southeast & Armed Services Y. The moment I walked in, everyone was so welcoming, there were hugs…they were absolutely amazing.”

The quilts, she said, were extra special to her and her family. Her son James agreed.

“I love my quilt because it has all my favorite stuff I like…ninja turtles and my dad who I love,” he said.

When military parents are home, however, the Y recognizes the importance of providing events and programs that will help families grow closer and create memories that keep them strong when they have to be apart.

TFather-Daughterhe Military Father-Daughter Ball is one of those events. Military daughters are transformed into princesses (complete with their own crowns) and get their dads all to themselves for an evening. Both fathers and daughters create memories which will last a lifetime.

“The Military Father Daughter Ball was greatly appreciated by my family…a very positive event to show community support for our military children, who are the true unsung heroes of the Army story,” said one father.

The annual event includes carriage rides, caricatures, food, dancing, flowers, live princesses and more – all the ingredients needed to create a magical night for fathers and daughters.

Father-Daughter 2“They treated my princess like a real queen and they treated me with the utmost respect…it gives us a necessary break to take time to spend with our families and those who mean more to us than anything else,” said another dad.

Another parent said his daughter is still talking about the night she’ll ‘never, ever forget.’

“Time with my children is precious, and this night could not have been any more magical for both my daughter and me,” he said.

Other events the Y offers exclusively to military families include a father-son fishing trip, a Mother-Daughter Tea, weekend family camps, Breakfast with Santa, Veterans Appreciation Breakfasts and more.

Beyond this, the Southeast & Armed Services Y offers a variety of other services, from swim lessons and soccer to fitness classes and two-hour child watch for Y members. Military families and veterans receive a military discount on their memberships, so they don’t have to worry about cost – they can simply enjoy all the Y has to offer.

These programs, events and services are our way of saying thank you to the military families in our community. We are honored to serve you.

For more information, please visit: www.ppymca.org/programs/military/events www.facebook.com/SoutheastArmedServicesYMCA

POC: Drew Aquino – Military Outreach Director: daquino@ppymca.org / 719.622.9622

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