Perspectives: Bringing Joy to Kids Living on El Paso, TX Military Base

Marisa Medina, Foundation Manager at TIF, recalls her experience at the recent toy giveaway to children of army families living on base at Fort Bliss.

Play Comforts in Fort Bliss On April 17th, the Toy Industry Foundation traveled cross-country from New York City to El Paso, Texas to bring a little light into the lives of 3,000 children living with their parents on military base Fort Bliss.  In celebration of April being the “Month of the Military Child,” the Foundation played its part to honor the courage and unique challenges faced by the sons and daughters of our nation’s troops with truckloads of brand new toys and games to surprise the little ones.

On the day of our event, a powerful sand storm erupted with 55+ mph winds, but many families braved the storm and were overjoyed by what was in store. Family board games, arts and crafts, science kits, action figures, building blocks, stuffed animals and more were handed out to children in attendance during a fun-filled pizza party that featured a lively DJ and plenty of laughs.

This event was held as part of the Foundation’s Play Comforts program in partnership with Boys and Girls Clubs of America Military Services, through which we  deliver toys and games donated by caring toy companies to families on dozens of U.S. military installations at home and abroad each year. Our hope is to provide a comforting distraction for our troops’ children through toys, and let these families know that we’re thinking about them.

Colonel Brant Dayley, Garrison Commander at Ft. Bliss, joined in on last week’s festivities. “The toy industry has delivered more than toys today,” he announced at the event. “They have delivered joy, comfort and gratitude to each one of you for the sacrifices you have made to keep our country safe.”

I was touched by the expressions on everyone’s faces throughout the toy giveaway. It was evident that some of the stress the children have worrying about their parents’ safety had dissipated, if only for a moment. To my delight, comments popped up on the Foundation’s Facebook page after the event, showing that our toys had a lasting impression on the families at Fort Bliss.

One mom posted, “I just wanted to share that my three children, ages 15, 13, and 7, are happily playing their new board game. We home school, so they SHOULD be doing schoolwork, but it's been so long since they all sat and played a game together, I don't want to interrupt them. Thank you for all that you do for our military kids!” Our toys and games gave these children an outlet to work cooperatively and have fun, and we could not ask for more.

Even with the ugly weather it was a wonderful event!,” shared another mom. “Thank you for everything you do for our children!” Our message of appreciation is coming through. Mission accomplished.

Up next, we are headed to Alaska in June to continue our journey to thank 32 bases this year. You can join us in honoring military families, by donating funds in support of the Play Comforts program, and toy companies can donate toys by completing our product donation form (pdf) and marking “Boys and Girls Clubs of America” in section one.

To see the smiling faces with your own eyes, take a look at our online photo album.

We are grateful to the companies that generously donated toys for this event: ALEX, DuneCraft, GANZ, Gibout Toys, Hasbro, Lee Magic Pen, LEGO, Look Out World, Mattel, MindWare, RBI Toys, Reeves International, Safari Ltd., TMI Toy Marketing International, and exhibitors at Toy Fair 2013.