The competition was intense. Loud cheers, clapping and whistles echoed off The Barry Robinson Center’s gym walls, as teams of kids scuttled and rolled, moving a large inflatable ball around the court to score points. A closer look revealed a few adults playing crab soccer with as much gusto as the kids. But these adults weren’t staff – these were senior officers from the U.S. military, who volunteered their afternoon to spend some quality time with the residents.
More than a dozen officers, representing the U.S. Air Force, Army and Navy, visited The Center for a community service project on Thursday, August 3. The officers are in the region for a 10-week class at the Joint and Combined Warfighting School, which is part of the Joint Forces Staff College in Norfolk, Virginia. Many of them take on service projects while in the class, according to Air Force Lt. Col. Mafwa Kuvibidila, one of the officers who participated.
“This has been fun, and it’s going well. It’s great to see the kids warm up to us as we moved through the activities,” she said.
Bringing military officers to campus to interact with the residents is a natural fit, said Rob McCartney, CEO.
“About 70 percent of our current residents are from military families,” McCartney explained. “Giving our kids a chance to spend time with these military leaders makes sense. So many of our kids are from military families, and they feel a quick connection. It also helps our kids to see these officers who represent the values that align well with our own – character, honor, integrity, service.”
Besides crab soccer, the officers also led residents through a series of team-building exercises where they worked together to transfer balls from one basket to another, roll a ball along a cloth and play a modified tug of war-style game. Words of encouragement and support, and lots of laughter could be heard as the officers, staff and residents “played” together, learning lessons along the way.
“This is a good opportunity for us to connect with kids because we’re all away from our families right now. I have three children, and I spent time today with the adolescent girls, many of whom are the same age as my daughters. It was fun to talk with the girls and hear that they share the same interests as my kids,” said Army Lt. Col. Owen Ray. “Also, it’s great that we can take this experience and knowledge back to our commands, to know that The Barry Robinson Center is available as a resource. We’re all family in the military, and we want to help our family when there’s a need.”
Allyson Hagan, The Center’s Certified Therapeutic Recreation Specialist, organized the event, selecting the activities and guiding the officers through the afternoon.
“The kids had an awesome time and I truly believe they also learned something, which is always a good thing,” she said. “The officers were awesome throughout the afternoon, and I hope they enjoyed themselves as much as our kids did.”