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Salute to Youth brings special needs awareness to forefront

The Vandenberg Youth Center Hula Dance Club performs at the Salute to Youth event, Aug. 7, 2015, Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif. The Salute to Youth program is an opportunity for families of Team V, including families with special needs and school-aged children, to become familiarized with educational opportunities and resources for their children. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Robert J. Volio/Released)

The Vandenberg Youth Center Hula Dance Club performs at the Salute to Youth event, Aug. 7, 2015, Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif. The Salute to Youth program is an opportunity for families of Team V, including families with special needs and school-aged children, to become familiarized with educational opportunities and resources for their children. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Robert J. Volio/Released)

A volunteer makes balloon animals for children at the Salute to Youth event, Aug. 7, 2015, Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif. More than 40 Team V volunteers ensured the success of the day’s events – manning a rock climbing wall, making balloon animals and preparing food for those in attendance. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Robert J. Volio/Released)

A volunteer makes balloon animals for children at the Salute to Youth event, Aug. 7, 2015, Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif. More than 40 Team V volunteers ensured the success of the day’s events – manning a rock climbing wall, making balloon animals and preparing food for those in attendance. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Robert J. Volio/Released)

A volunteer teaches children how to use a bubble wand at the Salute to Youth event, Aug. 7, 2015, Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif. More than 40 Team V volunteers ensured the success of the day’s events – manning a rock climbing wall, making balloon animals and preparing food for those in attendance. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Robert J. Volio/Released)

A volunteer teaches children how to use a bubble wand at the Salute to Youth event, Aug. 7, 2015, Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif. More than 40 Team V volunteers ensured the success of the day’s events – manning a rock climbing wall, making balloon animals and preparing food for those in attendance. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Robert J. Volio/Released)

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- The Airman and Family Readiness Center, along with the Youth Center, hosted the 6th annual Salute to Youth event here, Aug. 7.

The Salute to Youth program is an opportunity for families of Team V, including families with special needs and school-aged children, to become familiarized with educational opportunities and resources for their children.

"Our goal is to ease stress for our target families by bringing resources to them," said Raymond Vasquez, 30th Force Support Squadron school liaison officer. "When you have a special needs child there are already enough stressors to deal with. Offering families school resources helps them make more informed decisions about their child's education.  We provided free backpacks to families E-6 and below to help offset the many expenses incurred in the beginning of a school year."

The theme of this year's Salute to Youth was "A Children's Luau", a carnival-like atmosphere that included authentic Hawaiian shave ice, a hula group, face painting booths and bounce houses.

"We are providing an opportunity for families on base to come to one place to receive information and resources from the community about education and other child resources," said Tech. Sgt. Brittany Spoutz, 30th FSS readiness NCO. "To make it extra fun, we have lots of games and activities so it is enjoyable for the entire family."

Several public, private, charter, online and home school networks were on hand for the event, along with community partners who provided resources for children with special needs.

"There were 13 school representatives in attendance for the event, as well as 20 Exceptional Family Member Program partners," said Spoutz. "The Salute to Youth is largely comprised of on and off base schools and agencies who can provide support for these families."

More than 40 Team V volunteers ensured the success of the day's events - manning a rock climbing wall, making balloon animals and preparing food for those in attendance.

"This event wouldn't be as effective without a team effort," said Vasquez. "More than 40 volunteers came together to support this event and without them this would not be possible. I want to express my gratitude and say 'Mahalo' to all that came to enjoy the event and all the unsung heroes who helped set up and run this event."

For everyone involved, the Salute to Youth proved successful - while bringing the community together in the process.

"Events like Salute to Youth focus on children, which are a huge part of many military members' lives," said Spoutz. "By providing support and resources that focus on families, we can really show the whole family that they are appreciated just as much as their military member. This event also requires a lot of volunteers, so organizations across the entire base are able to be involved. Fun events like this are great for everyone's morale."