On Friday, November 5th, we proudly partnered with the USO Metro Office for Military Families to host 100 military members and their families for a free day of play, learning, and – most importantly – time spent making magical memories together.
Families enjoyed playing and connecting with one another, took part in the Bob Hope Legacy Reading Program where they made recordings for family members serving overseas or that they may not be able to see for the holidays, and enjoyed time learning about animals, creating art together, and taking part in other interactive programs.
The USO Day event means a lot to active-duty families who came from all over the region, Fort Meade, Andrews Air Force Base, and even Fort Belvoir which is located nearly two hours away from Port Discovery.
For military families, finding a place to play can be tough, especially families that have recently moved to the area. According to the Blue Families Survey, military families struggle with time spent away from family, their children’s education, financial resources, and family stability, as well as the impact of military life on children. Like any family, military families want to feel welcome in their local community and want to feel a sense of belonging – but that can be hard with relocations and balancing work and family life.
Most of the families that came to Port Discovery’s 2nd Annual USO Day are among the thousands of military families temporarily calling Maryland home while their spouse is on assignment/deployment. They are new to Maryland and will likely stay in the region for two to three years. Here are some of their stories:
Thaddeus, age five, and Matthias, age 3, and mom Celine came from Quantico, Virginia. Their dad is in the Marine Corps. They cannot wait to talk with dad and tell him about their first time coming to Port Discovery. They are looking forward to coming back with dad someday.
Rebecca, with sons Grant, age 8, and Jack, age 5, came from Andrews Airforce Base in Washington, D.C.. There was no school, so mom was happy that she could do something with the kids and keep them busy. Now the kids will have a great story to tell dad next time they talk. Little Jack was had a hard time choosing a storybook to record as part of the Bob Hope Reading Legacy Program because he did not know which book his dad would like best. They have not seen dad in 23 weeks as he is currently deployed in Qatar. As part of the USO Day, children are recorded reading a book of their choice and they get to keep the book. Then, a copy of the recording and a copy of the same book is sent to the family member that is deployed. This allows for parallel play and reading skills to grow. The recording of the kiddos reading will make it to dad before the Holidays. Dad is scheduled to return in June 2022.
Rachel and Lyndon, age 3, came from Fort Meade. Dad deployed earlier this week, and it was hard on Lyndon as now he is aware that dad is not home. Mom told us that this event made daddy being away and their recent special talk about why dad is away easier for Lyndon to process.
Kim came with her children Julie (8), Ray (2), and Kai (13) from Bethesda. Dad is currently deployed with about a year left on his deployment. This Army family was really happy to take a family field trip where they could have some fun together - they told us that they’d been looking forward to the USO day for weeks. Now that they know where we are located and what to expect, they plan to come back and might even become Museum members.
Iris, age 6, and JR, age 8, a Navy Yard Family, came to Port Discovery from Silver Spring. Dad is currently deployed in Spain. Dad will be proud of how the kids were handling the animals. They have been begging to have a pet for years, but the life of constant moving makes it hard for them to adopt a pet. They were pleased that Wildlife Adventures was here.
This Coast Guard family had fun spending a day together and making fantastic memories together before their dad goes out on assignment.
Thank you to the donors, funders, and partners who helped make our 2nd Annual USO Day possible, including the USO Metro Office for Military Families who helped coordinate the event and Eureka Strategic Consulting who provided funding to help us offer a free day of play to so many. This support helps bring military, active duty members to Port Discovery Children's Museum and allows Port Discovery to bring programming to children living in the Ft. Meade military community.