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Vandenberg observes 7th annual Salute to Youth

Children perform at the 7th annual Salute to Youth event, Aug. 12, 2016, 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 familiar with educational opportunities and resources. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Kyla Gifford/Released)

Children perform at the 7th annual Salute to Youth event, Aug. 12, 2016, 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 familiar with educational opportunities and resources. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Kyla Gifford/Released)

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. --

The Airman and Family Readiness Center, along with the Youth Center, recently hosted the 7th annual Salute to Youth event here, Aug. 12.

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

“The Youth Center and the Airman and Family Readiness Center hold this base-wide event annually together,” said Karen Cook, 30th Force Support Squadron youth programs director. “It’s an event that allows all the local schools, and helping agencies for children, to connect with the base community. They send representatives and provide informational materials. The backpack brigade is also held this day, which gives free backpacks and supplies to base children. This was made possible with a $1,200 donation from the Thrift Store and a donation from Operation Home Front. Fun events for children are also part of the occasion such as bounce houses, carnival games, food, prizes and entertainment.”

With previous years being lauded as particularly successful, this year was no exception – garnering significant participation.

“This occasion is always really special,” said Raymond Vasquez, 30th FSS school liaison officer. “I’ve invited many of our local helping agencies and vendors, which assist our family members with special needs. Last year we featured nearly 20 such agencies and vendors, drawing over 600 military parents and children and we did even better this year. Additionally, we gave away 200 backpacks filled with supplies to E-6’s and below, for all children enrolled in Kindergarten through 12th grade.”

Considering the unique stressors that can weigh heavily on military families, the occasion allowed an opportunity to relieve some anxiety by consolidating resources and information in one location.

“This event helps bring together the base and local community in one central location,” said Cook. “It’s important because it alleviates the stress of having to seek out agencies on an individual basis. It’s a one-stop shop, saving time and energy for the active duty member and their family.”

For those involved, this year’s success hinged upon the generosity of volunteers and organizations like the Vandenberg Thrift Store and Operation Homefront.

“The Vandenberg Thrift Store donated $1,200 to purchase the 200 backpacks, which was a significant contribution to support our military families,” said Vasquez. “Operation Homefront also assisted with coordinating supplies from local dollar stores – over $3,000 worth of supplies. It was truly a base-wide and local community event. Over 50 people volunteered to support it and many community partners contributed time, money and resources.”