During the 101st Airborne Division Association’s 70th Annual Reunion, leaders from the 101st Airborne Division Association and the Screaming Eagle Foundation took a few moments to present Ms. Karen Grimsley, Executive Director of the Fort Campbell Armed Services YMCA with this year’s donation of $50,000 to assist the Ft. Campbell ASYMCA with its mission of supporting Fort Campbell Families. The Screaming Eagle Foundation annually supports the ASYMCA by providing a donation to help fund the ASYMCA’s many programs that provide much needed services to help Fort Campbell’s junior enlisted military families. If you’d like to know more about how the Screaming Eagle Foundation helps the Fort Campbell Armed Services YMCA, go to their website at www.screamingeaglefoundation.org and read the article from the Winter 2014 Screaming Eagle Magazine.
The Screaming Eagle Foundation is now able to receive donations through the Combined Federal Campaigns (CFC) so look for us during this year’s CFC campaign as the Screaming Eagle Foundation, CFC # 81770 and support your Screaming Eagles.
Photo (L-R) 101st Airborne Division Association Past President Mr. Jim Keeton, Current 101st Airborne Division Association President, Mr. Jim Shamblen, Fort Campbell ASYMCA Executive Director, Ms. Karen Grimsley, Screaming Eagle Foundation Trustee, Mr. Doug Bonnot, Screaming Eagle Foundation President, Mr. Tom Sewell, Screaming Eagle Foundation Financial Advisor, Mr. Fred Ranck
OUR SCREAMING EAGLE SUPPORT PROGRAM (SESP) SUPPORTS THE ARMED SERVICES YMCA (ASYMCA)
By Jim Shamblen
While at Ft Campbell this year, I was asked to visit the ASYMCA to see our SESP in action. I was aware of our support to this organization but was always in doubt as to why we thought our SESP’s precious funds we gave to support our 101st junior enlisted soldiers were to be used in this manner. We had a YMCA at Ft. Monroe that I supported through the Post CFC but it was mostly a gym and physical fitness center programs and my perception for Ft. Campbell was the much the same. Oh, how mistaken and misinformed I was.
That morning Shirley West, the Director, and Karen Grimsley, who has since taken over as the Director with Shirley’s much earned retirement, were at the 101st Association’s headquarters to receive the final check for our support. They invited us to see what we were supporting. What I thought was to be a tour of a Gym soon turned my perceptions and support for the ASYMCA upside down. I now have a much greater appreciation for the support the ASYMCA provides to Ft. Campbell, its junior enlisted soldiers and their families, as well as the organization we have dedicated ourselves to support. I saw not a Gym or physical fitness facility, but a genuine loving, caring, and concerned organization that places our 101st soldiers firmly in their foresight and no effort is too much to provide for those soldiers we care so much about.
The Armed Services YMCA of Fort Campbell exists to make military life easier for our junior enlisted military and their young families. These young heroes and their families are voluntarily serving and sacrificing daily so we can continue to enjoy our freedoms and way of life. The junior troops don’t get paid very much and with shrinking defense budgets, troop and family programs are being cut at every military installation. The ASYMCA of Fort Campbell attempts to fill the highest priority gaps in these required programs and services.
There were many facilities I saw that day that overwhelmed me and heightened my resolve for us to continue our support at a significant level. I once thought, “Why do we provide this amount?” Now I believe we can’t provide enough. I’m sure many of you have experienced this feeling when your insights have been so heightened that you feel so incapable of giving and doing what you see as a requirement, if you expect to continue to profess to support something. I am now in this mode and encourage each of us to support the Association’s Foundation Program and raising money for the SESP to keep or increase our level support for this effort.
The first stop on my rebirth was the “Backdoor Boutique”. I first mistakenly announced “oh, a lending closet, how nice.” The second of my mistakes that morning! What I saw turned my casual thoughts from “Oh how nice,” to a great “WOW!” The backdoor boutique is a free program, which allows E-5 and below and members of their household to shop using a military ID instead of money! Volunteers sort through donations put them out on the shelves and there the similarities with a lending closet end. Soldiers and families can come in and take up to two bags and a carryout FREE OF CHARGE! They have household items including small appliances, bedding, and home decor. They also have clothing and shoes in all sizes, plus toys and other miscellaneous items. If a soldier and their family is in need of larger items (furniture, baby items, etc.) their name goes on a wish list, and as soon as they get these items, the soldier gets a call to pick it up. The Backdoor Boutique is also supported by local businesses that provide new off the shelf items such as bedding, kitchen items, bathroom fixtures, towels, and other items.
Cinderella’s fairy Godmother can take a vacation thanks to the ASYMCA. The Ball Room at the Boutique has a huge selection of evening gowns, shoes, handbags and jewelry. Everything Cinderella will need to be the bell of the ball. They also have men’s suits for that Cinderella’s man who needs help getting ready for the ball. Little girl’s pageant dresses are also available for that special occasion. What a great opportunity for a young spouse to have a beautiful gown to wear to their Brigade Formal and not have the worry of paying for it.
We then visited the Recondo Training Area (RTA) to see where the ASYMCA conducts the Screaming Eagle Summer Camp. For the past 7 years, the funds from the Screaming Eagle Support Program have provided a residential summer camp for our military children. This camp gives first priority to those children who have a family member deployed and to our Junior Enlisted families. In addition to the funding, Fort Campbell assists with support and soldiers serve as counselors. The summer camp is available each year to 50 children. This camp would not be possible without our SESP support! The ASYMCA also conducts an SOS Summer Camp. In partnership with Survivor Outreach Services they are able to offer a fun, active, residential camp for those children who have experienced the loss of a parent while serving on active duty. This camp is for approximately 25 children each summer.
As satisfying were the first two stops on our visit, I was to be more overwhelmed by the things that occur in the building where they do the majority of their support functions and care for the children of our soldiers. This is where the “Playgroups”, as they have so properly named, them occur. All Playgroups are designed to be parent interactive. There is a volunteer in charge of the group each day to plan activities and carry them out, but the parents are expected to assist their children. All playgroups are geared for a one to four year old, but all ages are welcome. Snack time is part of each playgroup. Some of the activities they participate in are: Tumble Tots let the kids play on our kid-friendly mats, focusing on balance and basic tumbling. They also sing songs and do lots of other fun activities. Free Play is designed for children and parents to spend time playing and connecting with other families. Discover Art is designed to help children learn the different ways they can create and discover how to make art. In Pee Wee Science they learn about science and participate in experiments each week.
Little ones playtime (birth to 4 years old) gives new moms an opportunity to network with each other and gives the children a chance to play together. Finally, an After School Sundaes program is provided the first Tuesday after school each month. All playgroups are offered free of charge and all craft materials and snacks are provided for each class.
Another program we were told about is “Y” Make the Grade”. In the spring of 2011, they began an after school tutoring program for all of elementary schools here on post. The tutors are certified teachers who work with the child’s teacher to help these children with their math and reading. Currently they help around 30 students a month. The Little Heroes program for children ages 3 and 4, are for those whose parent is deployed. The 4 year old program will have two daily sessions. Children in this program have lots of opportunity to grow and learn. It is a structured pre-school atmosphere with lots of fun and exciting things for them to do each day. Their goal is for them to have a rewarding learning experience each day. Operation Hero is an onsite after-school program, which focuses on character development and skill building within military children who have been identified by school personnel and parents as exhibiting low self-esteem, or difficulty adjusting both academically and socially in the school environment. The curriculum is designed to help children handle the challenges of military life, provide tools to help them succeed in school, and help develop a positive self-image while improving social and communication skills. Fort Campbell’s Operation Hero program is currently offered in all six Elementary schools on post and has a yearly participation of around 300 children.
As if all this is too much for my plate, they also provide additional family programs. They conduct a Family Dinner and Breakfast at the Y. These events are open to the whole Ft. Campbell community and everything is provided FREE OF CHARGE. With each of these events, They always have door prizes and other giveaways. The Armed Services YMCA is proud to be able to team up with other Fort Campbell agencies to provide adult fun and education classes. Through the collaborative effort, some of the classes to be offered may include: Yoga, Zumba, Coupon classes, Parenting, Crafting, and a Bible Study offered each Tuesday from 11:45-12:45. Lunch is provided. This is an opportunity for our Soldiers to come in and fellowship during lunch and be fed in more ways than one.
Each year during the holidays they assist families with gifts and other needs. Approximately 100 families each year are taken to the commissary to purchase $150.00 of food. Also, students from Christ Presbyterian School in Nashville purchase new toys for military children to have during the holidays. The school donates a moving van full of gifts. We assist those families of the junior enlisted Soldiers with a scheduled time to shop for their children. They have developed a new program, “Teddy Child Watch” that provides child watch services for children 6 weeks to 12 years old while their parent is utilizing Lab, Radiology and Clinic services at Blanchfield Community Hospital. This service was requested by the hospital command and has been in operation since August 12, 2014. In Operation Ride Home, Jack Daniels and other donors to help send Soldiers and their families’ home for the Holiday.
And Finally,“Angels of the Battlefield Gala”. The Angels of the Battlefield Gala is a Fort Campbell Armed Services YMCA signature event that honors the individual men and women on the front lines who are saving lives and have demonstrated extraordinary courage. Slated for the first Thursday in November each year, they have had exceptional participation from Fort Campbell, community leaders and businesses. Guest speakers have included General John Campbell, Gary Sinise, LTG (Ret) General Michael Oates and Senator Mark Green, MD. Musical guest Savannah Berry (Season 4 of The Voice) has performed and has donated a portion of her song’s proceeds from “Silent Night Without You” to the Armed Services YMCA.
If all of this has overwhelmed you, get on the bus with me. My world has been rocked, my eyes opened, and my support for this organization refreshed. I now will be unabashed in my asking for all of us in the 101st Airborne Association who desire to do something greater than ourselves to support our Screaming Eagle Support Program and ensure that our support for the ASYMCA does not falter. When we created the Screaming Eagle Support Program led by and with the encouragement of Billy Colwell, we sought to support the junior enlisted soldier and their families. This program epitomizes what we envisioned as support to our junior enlisted soldiers.