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(Photo: Erica Glass)

By Erica Glass, Alaska Chapter Director

We all have goals for our children. We want them to be healthy, kind, mindful… But do you have any goals some may consider quirky? I do! I want my milkids to visit all 50 states before they reach age eighteen. After stumbling onto websites such as All Fifty States Club and Travel 50 States With Kids, I knew we could–and would—do it.

Here are five ways we are pulling off this massive goal:

1. Getting to hard-to-get-to-states

Okay, I admit we live in the state that is usually the hardest and rarest for a person to get to: Alaska! Just by being stationed here we have already been to a state many Americans can only dream of reaching. And Alaskans can actually reach Hawaii much easier than those living on the East Coast! For us to visit family in the Midwest or East Coast, it usually involves red eye flights, changing plans a few times, weird layovers, and higher costs, but I can get a non-stop flight to Hawaii from Alaska at a great time and price! We got to knock out the two hardest states to reach just by being stationed in Alaska.

2. Take advantage of those military deals!

I always get asked, “Isn’t that expensive? We wouldn’t be able to afford all that travel.”

It depends on what you want to do. My kids and I are in love with the National Park System (NPS) and collecting each park’s Junior Ranger badges. Military families can receive a free America the Beautiful Pass to enter the parks, and the Junior Ranger program is free to all kids. Make sure you check out Blue Star Parks if you love the NPS. If museums are your thing, check out the Blue Star Museums participating museums’ list in the area you are visiting. They offer free admission for military families! Most places do offer generous military discounts (Disney’s Armed Forces Salute, SeaWorld’s  Wave of Honor program, and others), you will just need to do a little research.

3. Take advantage of your friends and family! Ask your military friends and family politely if you can stay at night or two at their place

Because we’re military, I almost swear we know someone in every state and even overseas. Do not be afraid to ask if their guest room is open for a night or two. I’m willing to bet they will be just as happy to see you as you are them. I have reached out to friends and family I haven’t seen in years, and it was so wonderful to catch up with them in real life instead of just seeing their Facebook profile.

4. Google Maps is your bestie

I am as obsessed with Google Maps the way a preteen is obsessed with Minecraft. I have sat for hours playing on Google Maps, seeing the best way to connect states.  Seriously, the number of hours I have spent on Google Maps is embarrassing. Let’s, uh, move on to number 5.

5. No cheating

I am going to say it again and louder for the people in the back: AIRPORT LAYOVERS DO NOT COUNT AS “VISITING A STATE.” Seriously, stop it! We all have our travel rules, and our family rule is to count a state, we must have done something specific in that state. My daughters and I flew to Nebraska (Homestead National Monument) to view the 2017 eclipse, and I purposely chose an airport in Kansas to fly out of just so we could find a beautiful sunflower field to visit and take a photo in. Because when one thinks of Kansas, you think of sunflowers right? People thought I was nuts and could not understand why I would do that. Well, that’s what we do! And you should not be afraid to do a little “crazy” stuff to meet your goals. Apply that to every goal in your life.

Tell us about your crazy military kids adventures! Or tell me about your National Park experiences! I really love hearing about great NPS stories!

The post 5 Ways Military Families Can Complete Audacious Travel Goals appeared first on Blue Star Families.

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Washington, D.C. – Military children need quality sleep.  They experience more stress than the average American child through deployments and frequent base relocations.  In April, the Month of the Military Child, Blue Star Families has partnered with Sleep Number to aid the sleep of military children in a few important ways.

The most recent Blue Star Families annual Military Family Lifestyle Survey highlighted the stress placed on the more than 1.7 million military children in America . Military families move seven times more often than civilian families, which means the average military child will attend six to nine different schools with at least two transitions during high school.  

The connection to sleep is real.  Nearly one-third (31%) of military families said their child had experienced difficulty sleeping/nightmares to a moderate or great effect as a result of their military parent’s deployment.  Over half (54%) of military families said their child had experienced separation anxiety, worry, and/or sleeping problems as a result of the service member’s deployment.

“Sleep can reduce behavioral issues of children of deployed military to include reduction in stress levels, anxiety, and declining grades,” said Kathy Roth-Douquet, CEO of Blue Star Families.

To bring attention and assistance to military children, Blue Star Families and Sleep Number have partnered to help military children get better sleep.

The Sleep Number Goodnight MilKid Sweepstakes will give a ZZZ Bear and Sleep Number children’s pillow to 100 military families.   Blue Star Families will also connect the Sleep Number sleep experts with military families to assist with tips for better sleep. Follow the Blue Star Families Facebook page for details on how to win. #GoodnightMilkid

Sleep Number is focused on improving the lives of youth through better sleep and much of Blue Star Families’ programs are focused on military children.

The post Blue Star Families and Sleep Number Shine Light on Military Children in April appeared first on Blue Star Families.

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Photo: Blue Star Families

The Blue Star Families Salute to Distinction Award Program recognizes outstanding volunteers who demonstrate exemplary service to military families and further the Blue Star Families mission within their respective communities.

It is our pleasure to announce the 2017 Salute to Distinction Quarter 4 Award Winner:

Margie Manning, Chapter Director, Nellis Air Force Base in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Margie is committed to reaching every military family in Southern Nevada, including Active Duty, Reserve, National Guard, and Veteran families. She has been a Blue Star Families Volunteer for over four years, stepping into her role as Chapter Director in 2016. She is well-known in her community for her dedication to improving the lives of military families.

Margie volunteered over 100 hours of her time in 2017, making her eligible to receive the Presidential Volunteer Service Award.  In Quarter 4 alone, Margie coordinated and participated in 13 events, gave away 1,200 books to military children, and served almost 5,000 family members!

One of Margie’s nominators had this to say:

“Margie works hard to make sure all families have the resources they need, even if it means driving an hour away to get books in the hands of milkids. She is well known by everyone at Nellis AFB as “The Book Lady” and when she’s not volunteering with BSF, she is helping other organizations in the area who support military families including Airman and Family Readiness, Operation Homefront, the USO, and the Nevada Army National Guard. She is constantly sharing BSF with everyone she meets and she does it with the sweetest smile. She never asks for recognition and rarely needs direction; she just quietly works away out there in the desert. Blue Star Families is very lucky to have Margie!”

Congratulations and thank you, Margie, for going above and beyond to bring programs and resources to military families in the Las Vegas area.

Do you work with an amazing Blue Star Families volunteer in your community? Nominate him or her for our Salute to Distinction award! Email koyer@bluestarfam.org for more information.

Do you want to join our rock star volunteer team? Sign up at www.bluestarfam.org/volunteer !

The post Meet Blue Star Families’ 2018 Salute to Distinction Quarter 4 Award Winner appeared first on Blue Star Families.

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The President’s Volunteer Service Award (PVSA) is the country’s premier volunteer award program. As an initiative of the Corporation for National and Community Service, the program encourages citizens to live a life of service and lead by example to inspire others to engage in volunteerism.

The award recognizes, celebrates, and holds up as role models Americans making a positive impact as engaged and deeply committed volunteers. The Award enables organizations like Blue Star Families to amplify their gratitude by joining with the President of the United States to nationally recognize and thank their most dedicated volunteers.

As we celebrate National Volunteer Month (April) here at Blue Star Families, we are honored to announce our 2017 President’s Volunteer Service Award Winners:

Lana Bonotan

  • Travis AFB Chapter Director
  • 1,316 hours – Gold Award

Gabrielle DeSimone

  • Kirtland AFB Program and Event Coordinator
  • 100 hours – Bronze Award

Sherleana Fuentes

  • Bavaria, Germany Chapter Director
  • 682 hours – Gold Award

Janette Geasley

  • Alaska Social Media Manager
  • 138 hours – Bronze Award

Erica Glass

  • Alaska Chapter Director
  • 507 hours – Gold Award

Amse Heck

  • D.C. Chapter Director
  • 535 hours – Gold Award

Frank Hewett

  • Kirtland AFB Program and Event Coordinator
  • 125 hours – Bronze Award

Savannah Hewett

  • Kirtland AFB Chapter Director
  • 1,003 hours – Gold Award

Robin Johnson

  • San Antonio Chapter Director
  • 666 hours – Gold Award

Nelida Lewis

  • El Paso Chapter Director
  • 544 hours – Gold Award

Michael Maico

  • Travis AFB Program and Event Coordinator
  • 172 hours – Bronze Award

Margie Manning

  • Nellis AFB Chapter Director
  • 104 hours – Bronze Award

Jesse Murphy

  • New York City Sierra Club Event Leader
  • 109 hours – Bronze Award

Hang Owen

  • Emerald Coast Chapter Director
  • 1,080 hours – Gold Award

Lauren Pierce

  • Luke AFB Program and Event Coordinator
  • 164 hours – Bronze Award

Nicole Robb

  • San Diego Social Media Manager
  • 145 hours – Bronze Award

Johnbrian Robles

  • Travis AFB Team Member
  • 120 hours – Bronze Award

Diane Schneider

  • Chicago Chapter Director
  • 177 hours – Bronze Award

ALSO IN 2017:

We are excited to announce that we have FOUR amazing MILITARY KIDS who earned GOLD President’s Volunteer Service Awards!

Cameron Hewett

  • 100 hours – GOLD Award

Enzi Norway

  • 140 hours – GOLD Award

Kimi Norway

  • 150 hours – GOLD Award

Monza Norway

  • 140 hours – GOLD Award

Congratulations and THANK YOU to our 2017 award winners!

Past Blue Star Families PVSA Winners:

Tracy Adkins – Bronze Award (2015), Silver Award (2012)

Ginny Beers – Bronze Award (2016)

Rheanna Bernard – Bronze Award (2015)

Lana Bonotan – Gold Award (2016)

Elizabeth Castro – Bronze Award (2016), Silver Award (2015)

Stephanie Dengel – Gold Award (2016, 2015)

Elysse Fleece – Bronze Award (2016, 2015)

Marianne Fontillas – Silver Award (2013)

Sherleana Fuentes – Gold Award (2016), Silver Award (2015)

Erica Glass – Gold Award (2016, 2015)

Amy Granillo – Bronze Award (2013)

Wendy Hayes – Bronze Award (2016, 2013), Silver Award (2015, 2014)

Savannah Hewett – Silver Award (2016)

Jen Hurwitz – Bronze Award (2015, 2014)

Robin Johnson – Silver Award (2016)

Shelley Kimball – Silver Award (2014), Gold Award (2013)

Tosombra Kimes – Silver Award (2016), Bronze Award (2015)

Nelida Lewis – Gold Award (2016)

Maria Mahoney – Bronze Award (2015)

Margie Manning – Bronze Award (2016)

Tammy Nelson-Burris – Bronze Award (2016)

Hang Owen – Gold Award (2016)

Karen Paulus – Silver Award (2016)

Domonique Rice – Bronze Award (2014)

Sofia Rivera – Bronze Award (2014)

Sylvia Salas-Brown – Silver Award (2016)

Tina Shifflet – Silver Award (2014), Bronze Award (2013)

Jenny Smith – Silver Award (2015), Bronze Award (2014)

Laura Spurgeon – Bronze Award (2014)

Patricia Vigil – Bronze Award (2016, 2015)

Maria Zambrana – Bronze Award (2016)

About the Award:

Hours are measured over a 12-month period and awards are designated based on cumulative hours. The awards are designed to recognize milestones of service achievement. Along with the ultimate honor of presidential recognition, recipients will receive a personalized certificate, an official coin, and a congratulatory letter from the President of the United States.

Hours by Award

Bronze

Silver

Gold

Adults 100 – 249 250 – 499 500+
Kids 50 – 74 75 – 99 100+
President’s Lifetime Achievement Award:
Individuals who have completed 4,000 or more hours in their lifetime.

For more information about The President’s Volunteer Service Award, please visit https://www.presidentialserviceawards.gov/.

The post 2018 President’s Volunteer Service Award (PVSA) Winners appeared first on Blue Star Families.

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Blog by Meghan Wieten-Scott

I wouldn’t say I am a pro by any means, but after 10 years, 6 PCS moves, two local moves, and one move into a storage unit, I would like to think I am getting a handle on this PCS circus. Being an event planner by day, one can understand why I am a compulsive planner. I don’t think there’s been a day since I learned to write that I haven’t made a list. I have lists for groceries, lists for things to do, lists for work tasks, lists for restaurants to try. Lists give me a false sense of security that I am totally in control….Riiiiight…..

I’m clearly not one to fly by the seat of my pants. I start preparing for a PCS months before our move date. Even if we don’t know where we’re going yet, and without orders in hand (or even an RFO for that matter), I start checking off my list (err…lists…).

In an effort to help you (newbies and old hats alike!) I am making my top ten list of things to do during your own PCS season:

1. Make a JAG appointment – As military families, we are fortunate to be able to use the on-base legal office to draft and update important legal documents. Outside of deployment, PCSing is one of the most stressful times of our military lives. It’s important to have your legal affairs in order as a family, not just for the service member. I prep everything beforehand to make sure the appointment is as quick and smooth as possible. Things we obtain at this appointment:

  • General Power of Attorney – We get POAs going both ways. You never know when your spouse will need to act on your behalf, and while you have the appointment you might as well get one drafted and signed!
  • Special Powers of Attorney – Need to sign for housing? Sign for your HHGs? Ask your JAG attorney what they suggest. While a General POA should cover everything, we’ve all met that one persnickety person who insists on a very specific document. On our last PCS, we drafted a special POA to cover shipping, loading, and signing for HHGs as well as signing for/clearing housing, and shipping vehicles. You just never know what you’ll need!
  • Temporary Child Custody/Power of Attorney – My parents are a tremendous help to us. I often travel for work, and they assist with childcare. JAG can draft a temporary custody/POA that allows a friend/family member to act as your child’s guardian, picking them up at school, obtaining health care and anything else they may need to do for your child in your absence. We keep one on hand for a local friend as well as my parents because outside of traveling, you never know when you might be caught in an emergency situation and need help.
  • USAA Power of Attorney – If you bank with USAA, you know they have their own POA. Make sure to bring out two copies and bring them along. Once you’re done, be sure to upload it to your USAA account so it’s already there if/when you need it!
  • Wills/Living Wills – Not fun to think about, but while you’re already at JAG, make sure yours are up to date!

2. Take photos of everything! – It sounds silly now, but when you have boxes of things missing (heaven forbid!), it’s easier to take inventory of what you don’t have.

  • I go from room to room opening cupboards, closets, and drawers and taking photos of everything. It doesn’t need to be fancy. Something to jog your memory is key!
  • Don’t forget artwork and framed items on the walls. We have a lot of artwork and limited-edition posters, and we take photos of them intact in their frames.
  • Take special note of high-value items. I’m a sucker for all things Lilly Pulitzer. While the movers laugh at these as ‘high value’ items, many of them are irreplaceable. I take photos of each item, front and back, just in case.

3. Prep your hand carry items. – Take note of what is truly irreplaceable and set those items aside long before your PCS. Some things to consider:

  • Important documents – IDs, POAs, passports, social security cards, DD 1172, housing application, move documents, travel itineraries and reservations
  • Children’s items – Include your kids and ask them what they want to make sure they carry with them. While we don’t let our son pack ALL of his lovies, he picks a special few that he wants to bring as his hand carry items.
  • Photos, books, personal items – Think about those things you can’t live without. We back up our photos on hard drives, and those always come along in the car.
  • Everything you’ll need to live for however many days until you get your HHGs. – My husband always fusses about carrying his blues by hand, but you just never know if your HHGs will get delayed or you won’t be able to sign into your house. The one time we don’t take them will be the PCS where everything goes wrong and he needs them!
  • Remember the dog (or cat…or fish)! Set aside everything they’ll need with your hand carry items.

4. Compile your PCS binder/folder/box. – I have one of those accordion folders that keeps everything together without fear of it falling out. My tabs include:

  • POAs – I make sure to keep the original and only give out copies. I keep a handful of copies of each as you never know when you’ll need them!
  • Insurance Docs – Keep extra copies of your car insurance handy because you never know when you’ll misplace one during the PCS. I also keep a copy of our USAA POAs here.
  • Georgia – I keep our dog’s medical records as well as copies of her vaccines in here.
  • Orders – Just go ahead and make 856 copies because you know you’ll end up giving copies to everyone….the housing office, the travel office, your spouses’ gaining unit, your priest..okay maybe too far, but you get the idea.
  • Medical records – When we left our last duty station, we were able to request copies of our medical records on CDs for each of us. I popped those in here along with our son’s shot records. ALWAYS carry the shot record copy. Everyone needs it, kind of like your orders.
  • Passports, Birth Certificates, Marriage License, etc. – I toss all of our other important personal documents in here.
  • Wills/Living Wills
  • Receipts – I toss all of our gas, lodging, and food receipts in here so I know I won’t lose them!
  • I keep the final pocket for anything else I don’t want to lose as we proceed through the PCS season.

5. Important contact numbers – Compile a list of important phone numbers and emails including: dentist, veterinarian, new unit staff duty, USAA, local friends on both locations, and doctor’s offices.

6. Don’t forget about Unaccompanied Baggage (UA) if you are PCSing OCONUS. – You’ll want all the basics to get you through until your full shipment of HHGs arrives.

  • Seasons change quickly. Bring some of the next season’s clothes for everyone for when the weather changes.
  • Think about your kids. Pack their favorite toys and household items so they have familiar things soon after you arrive as well as outdoor play toys if the weather will be appropriate when you arrive.
  • Linens – remember sheets and towels!
  • Pack the basic kitchen items you’d need to get through a few months. And Lawd, don’t forget the coffee maker!
  • Put together a small toolkit. You can get a head start on prepping curtains and hanging items when you first arrive.

7. Hand packed items – While not to be confused with hand carry items, there are a few things we pack ourselves for the movers to take.

  • My husband and I both have road bikes. On our last PCS, we invested in soft-sided carriers for them. This allows us to pack them well ourselves and then instruct the movers to NOT stack things on top of them!
  • I kept many of the original boxes from china or other special breakables so the movers can simply re-pack them into their original containers.

8. Create a list – You don’t think I’d get through this list without mentioning ANOTHER list did you?!

  • I have a complex Google sheet I have created to track everything PCS. Here’s how it breaks down:
    • To Do’s – I track everything from picking up the dog’s medical records to submitting the application for our son’s school here.
    • Clean and Organize – All the things I want to get done before the movers come. Some household things can get started before the move out such as cleaning windows and picking up the backyard.
    • Packing List – Broken down into: Household, MWS (myself), ATS (my spouse), MMWS (my kid), Dog, Army, and Meg Work
    • Address Changes Needed – While the USPS change of address catches most mail items, you’ll still need to update your bank, insurance, etc.

9. Map your route! – We love to travel so this is the best part for us. We bought a camper several years ago so we find fun campgrounds to stop at along our routes.

  • Look for unique, fun, and special things along your route. We’re National Park junkies so we look for parks along our route. Bonus points if they have campgrounds. We’ll go a bit off our designated route if something’s really worth it. Our newest road trip favorite site is Roadtrippers. In case you wanted to find the world’s largest frying pan (it’s near Fort Bragg!) or have the best pie in Missouri (hands down, it’s at the pie shop in Rolla, MO), Roadtrippers can help you find all sorts of fun, quirky things along your route.
  • Traveling with a pet? Make sure to note pet-friendly accommodations.
  • Book accommodations at your gaining duty station too. We always book a few extra nights just in case. You never know what can happen, and sometimes knowing you can sleep in a bed for one more night instead of on an air mattress is worth the extra expense.

10. Get excited about your new duty station! – Time to do your research.

  • Our son gets pretty apprehensive about the PCS. He gets sad about leaving his friends and his school. This time around, I made a point of showing him the virtual tour of our new house on the housing website and noted fun restaurants and things to do nearby.
  • It’s never too early to start thinking about what you’ll need when you arrive…hairdresser, dentist, veterinarian, etc. Join the local spouses’ pages and see what the chatter is.
  • Check out fun destinations nearby. We like to make a list of fun things to do and restaurants nearby for fun day trips or nights out! We’re moving close to NYC this summer so the shore and Broadway shows are high on our list!

Phew. What did I miss?! I know this isn’t the holy grail of PCSing, but this is what works for our family (or really just me as a total control freak!). Hopefully, it helps keep you on the right track and eases the craziness of the PCS just a little bit!

At the end of the day, it’ll all be over soon, you’ll be in a fun, exciting, new place, making great memories for your family, and the headache and craziness of your PCS will be long past!

The post PCS SANITY appeared first on Blue Star Families.

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Blog by Lindsay Bradford

Disney makes you feel welcome, inspired, and all-around happy, no matter how much you are hurting. The camaraderie is unlike anything I have experienced during a run… Everything was set up to make you feel amazing, special, and empowered to take on the challenge, and we did just that.

 A year ago, I was sitting in a sports medicine office being told I had to wear a medical boot and couldn’t run for at least six months. It was that moment, while sitting in the office waiting for the doctor to find a boot that fit me that I decided to sign up for my first half marathon, the Disney Princess Half Marathon, just to prove a point to myself and the doctor how stubborn I am. (He couldn’t find that boot. I ended up wearing a men’s boot… because Navy medicine.) Fast-forward to January, and I realized I needed to start preparing. Yup–leave it to me to prep for a half marathon just a half-month before the race.

About two weeks before the race, I was informed by a friend that I MUST dress up because that is part of running a Disney race. I am the biggest tomboy alive and wearing a tutu makes me want to die a little. Thankfully, my amazing co-worker, Erika, made me a custom shell shirt and Amazon Prime won the day with a green tutu and red hat. I became Ariel for the run (but I still haven’t heard the end of it from my family).

Skipping to the weekend of the Disney Princess Half Marathon; first up, the expo on Friday night. You could feel the energy and excitement in the parking lot with everyone buzzing around. Although I have been to many expos, this one wasn’t like the others I have attended where I walk around completely intimidated, the elites already “peacocking,” discussing their crazy-fast times and strategies. Nope, not this expo.

This energy was different. It was full of a people who were there to have fun, cheer each other on, and just enjoy themselves. This alone meant a lot to me and helped me get out of my own head because my nerves were really starting to kick in.

It is 2:30 on Sunday morning when my alarm went off. Race day. My nerves were in full force as I put on that dreaded puffy tutu and waddled down the hallways to the bus, only to be met with 30 other tutus. (Thank goodness I didn’t stick out like a sore thumb.) We were herded onto the bus, and they told us to sit with someone we didn’t know to meet a new friend, which was awesome. I sat next to a lady named Amanda. We chatted away, and I learned her story about how she flies into Orlando no matter where she lives to run every year with her mom, grandma, and aunt… and to top it off, she is a military spouse!

We arrived at the starting line, and I proceeded to the Race Retreat tent. If you are thinking about doing a Disney run, and it is available, absolutely visit the Race Retreat tent! The tent had its own medical section, characters just for us to take pictures with, stretching area, food, drinks, a DJ, and best of all…our own bathrooms!!! (All you runners know how magical this is.) After showing up way too early and drinking way too much coffee, we headed to the start line. ALL OF THE NERVES.

Approximately 20,000 of us were following the signs to the start–over a quarter mile away. We turned a corner and saw a huge stage, the starting line, and Cinderella’s Fairy Godmother! The hosts were engaging and cheerful, and the countdown began with the Fairy Godmother… then boom!!! Fireworks were set off and we were off! I cannot believe how many people lined the entire course.

Between Disney characters such as Goofy, Genie, Captain Jack Sparrow, Snow White, and the plastic Army men from Toy Story yelling at us up the hills, to park guests and Disney employees, DJs, photographers, and fun signs with jokes, we didn’t go more than a tenth of a mile without someone or something cheering or entertaining us. There was something around every corner; I never had a chance to get in my own head as the energy from fellow runners and entertainment was absolutely the best I have ever seen. Water stops were consistently full and never too far apart which is a huge deal, especially when it starts to get warm.

The course started at Epcot, then weaved to and through the Magic Kingdom where we ran right through the castle–which was ah-mazing–then back to Epcot. Overall it was an “easy” course. I was truly blown away by every single detail Disney covered.

I would recommend this to anyone wanting to tackle a half marathon. Disney makes you feel welcome, inspired, and all-around happy, no matter how much you are hurting. The camaraderie is unlike anything I have experienced during a run; runners were engaging with others, the DJs and characters were calling out your name… Everything was set up to make you feel amazing, special, and empowered to take on the challenge, and we all did just that. I can’t wait to check out some of their other races, and I am looking forward to the Disney Princess Half Marathon in 2019.

The post Running as a Disney Princess appeared first on Blue Star Families.

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At the heart of every military community are volunteers who go above and beyond to make their communities a great place for military families to live. The Blue Star Families Salute to Distinction Award program recognizes the outstanding volunteers who demonstrate exemplary service to our organization and formally thanks them for furthering the Blue Star Families mission within their respective communities.

Blue Star Families is proud to announce our Salute to Distinction 2017 Volunteer of the Year:

Robin Johnson, Chapter Director in San Antonio, Texas!

Robin has been a volunteer Chapter Director for the Blue Star Families San Antonio Chapter since May of 2016. Robin is the definition of Blue Star Families – she is a veteran, a military spouse, a military mom, a professional, a community builder, a caregiver coach, and an advocate for military families everywhere, especially in her San Antonio community. She dedicates an amazing amount of time to Blue Star Families; in 2017, she received the Gold Level Presidential Volunteer Service Award, which recognizes over 500 hours of volunteer service within a calendar year.

The work that Robin does in San Antonio is incredible. In 2017, she organized and participated in 43 community engagement opportunities for military families in her community – that is close to an opportunity each week! She works with several volunteers and community partners to offer the full suite of Blue Star Families programming in San Antonio, including Books on Bases events, Blue Star Museums, Blue Star Parks, theatre programs, special events for caregivers, unique opportunities with her Starbucks partners, and the hugely successful “Stars Behind the Stripes” event honoring military spouses. Through her 2017 events, Robin and her team served nearly 12,000 military families and neighbors in her community and welcomed almost 900 new Blue Star Families members.

Robin takes a creative approach to develop meaningful community engagement opportunities for military families and neighbors. She has developed her own funding stream to support her local events by utilizing the Kohl’s Cares volunteer grants and by participating in San Antonio’s annual Big Give. San Antonio has several military installations across the city and Robin provides opportunities that speak to each of these communities while also stretching military families to engage beyond the walls of the installation. She works hard to develop meaningful partnerships and takes every opportunity she can to brief community leaders on the annual Military Family Lifestyle Survey.

Leah Love, Community Engagement and Training Manager, had this to say about Robin’s contributions:

“Robin is deeply embedded in the San Antonio community. She is always looking for ways to provide meaningful support to military families while also looking ahead at how to lay the roadwork for Blue Star Families to become a household name in San Antonio. She has nurtured community relationships and capitalized on great partnerships. When we approached a community member from another organization to present Robin with an award, she was thrilled to have the honor and was able to do so at an event where, as the presenter shared, there were so many people present who had worked with Robin in one capacity or another and understood what great value she brings to the San Antonio community. And she does this all as a volunteer! Robin’s commitment to Blue Star Families is simply astounding.”

Robin never misses the opportunity to thank the team of volunteers who work with her. When asked about her success in bringing Blue Star Families programs and resources to her community and being named the 2017 Volunteer of the Year, she simply stated: “I have a great team.” 

As the Volunteer of the Year, Robin will receive a $500 professional development stipend and will help Blue Star Families in the selection process of future Volunteers of the Year.

Congratulations, Robin! Thank you for all you do for Blue Star Families.

Do you want to learn how YOU can get involved in your community? Visit www.bluestarfam.org/volunteer.

The post SALUTE TO DISTINCTION 2017 VOLUNTEER OF THE YEAR AWARD appeared first on Blue Star Families.

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An exclusive event brought to military families in NYC by our partners and friends at Disney Channel.

Story by Chloe Lane, a Blue Star Families MilKid

On Presidents Day, February 19, my mom and I were given the chance to see a screening and meet the cast of Disney Channel’s Andi Mack! I have been a fan since the show premiered in 2016 and my mom has been watching with me and has come to enjoy it just as much. I was so excited to hear from my mom that I would be going into Manhattan to this event. It was also winter break for New York City school students, so I had the entire week to think about the great day we had.

ABC Studios was so nice. The room we sat in was like a mini movie theater. Before the screening, the cast popped in to say hello and told us we would see them afterward. The show’s creator, Terri Minsky, also came in and took questions. We learned neat facts about what inspired her to write Andi Mack and where they film it: Utah!

The episode we got to watch was about one of the main characters, Buffy, and her mom who happens to be in the Army like my dad. Her mom surprised her at her basketball game, and that’s when we all learn something new about Buffy! I love that there is as a character on the show whose life is a lot like mine.

After that, we had the chance to meet the cast, take photos, and have lunch, too. First, we took pictures with the entire group (my mom got in one, also), and then had the opportunity to talk one-on-one with each cast member and get their autographs. When it was my turn to meet Joshua Rush who plays Cyrus Goodman, he asked me if I had seen the table full of books. It was like a mini library! He showed me some of his favorite books and asked me what I was into reading. We chose three for me to take and I also received a Disney gift bag with a t-shirt and other goodies. I also met the main character, Andi (played by Peyton Elizabeth Lee), and Lilian Bowden who plays Bex Mack, Andi’s mom.

Chloe with Cyrus (Joshua Rush)

It was such a great experience, and I’m so thankful to Blue Star Families (BSF) and Disney for giving other military kids and me this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. It was my first time meeting anyone famous, and I love that it was the cast of Andi Mack. We look forward to more BSF events in our area.

The post Chloe Meets Disney’s Andi Mack! appeared first on Blue Star Families.

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