VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. --
A sea of white pulsed and ebbed around the fitness center, as children and parents alike, wearing white t-shirts, prepared themselves to be doused in colorful cornstarch during the color 5K – or the shorter 1.5 mile trail run, May 21.
The run has been a recurring event on Vandenberg since 2002, always taking place on Armed Forces Day. Although it wasn’t until a few years ago that colored powder was added – which increased participation.
“We have been conducting the Americas Kids Run since 2002,” said Karen Cook, 30th Force Support Squadron youth center director. “Initially the run would attract between 40 and 50 children, but once color was added to the run 3 years ago our participation increased. The first year we had more than 100 runners, the second year 200 and this year 300, not including parents.”
Despite being called a “Kids Run”, the event turned into more of a family affair, with fathers, mothers, daughters and sons, running together through the base trails.
“With the majority of the events we plan, families are the focus of everything we do,” said Calvin Tucker, 30th FSS child and youth assistant. “There is always the component to get the family out of the house and more involved. We know how important they are for kids as they grow and develop, so we try to host three or four events that are base wide for families every year."
The organized chaos of screaming children, coupled with shouts of encouragement and multicolored faces, bookmarked the end of the vibrant event. And while this event may be over, the youth center is set to maintain their momentum for future events as the days get longer and the children are no longer in school.
“We serve more than 5,000 children and family members every year in our Teen and Youth programs - which consists of Boys and Girls Club of America programming as well as 4H,” said Cook. “We have a Nationally Accredited School Age Program and Summer Camp, Youth Sports Programs that include basketball, soccer, baseball and cross country as well as instructional programs that include gymnastics, jui-jitsu, and dance."
The tempo never stops for the Youth Center, and every day the staff wear multiple hats in order to provide family support, ensuring base operations remain optimal.
“We try to be a pretty versatile staff, and on the recreation side there are only four of us, but sometimes it feels like we are twice that,” said Tucker. “Sometimes I think people only think we are here for daycare, but it is so much more than that. We help kids with homework, coach them in basketball and cross country. Every day we are a haven for these kids while their parents are at work, making sure the base can accomplish its mission. We aren’t just a place for kids to come hang out, but we are also a place for kids to learn to give back to the community that they are part of everyday. We are here for fun, but we are also here to serve the Air Force family.”