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Optimists connect local soldiers with families back home

APPLE VALLEY • For local members of the military, being away from home can be trying. But to be away at Christmastime can be even more difficult for soldiers and their families, alike.

So the Apple Valley Optimist Club is partnering with the USO in a program that allows soldiers overseas to record themselves reading books to their own children, and the recordings are then mailed back to the family.

For a $10 donation, a book will be purchased and stamped with the Optimist Club insignia and sent to the service member overseas. The book will include a message letting the family know who the book is from and sent to the family along with a DVD of the session for the children to see. The children can then put the DVD in to see their parent reading to them at any time while they follow along with their own book.

“The night before my husband left for deployment he was reading the children their bedtime story, but in the middle of it, he broke down,” the wife of one military member said in a statement from the Optimist Club. “He hugged them and told them he was going to miss bedtime stories with them. Our son put his arm around his dad’s shoulders to comfort him and said, ‘It’s okay Daddy. Remember? You can still read to us on the DVDs that you send ... just like last time!’”

Another soldier said, “The USO and United Through Reading Program filled a communication void with my 2-year-old son. He interacted with the video of me reading, and my wife reported back on the parts of the story that he responded to and what he said. I felt like I was having a dialogue with him that I couldn’t have had by any other means.”

The Optimist Club is partnering with Barnes & Nobles at the Mall of Victor Valley from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Friday to wrap purchased books for a donation. A donation can be any amount that is comfortable for a person or family to give and will be used 100 percent toward the support of this program.

“Think how wonderful it would be for these children to have something so memorable during the holidays, not to mention the moral support this offers to the parent at home,” Optimist Chairwoman Julie Whittingham said.

To participate, visit optimist.kintera.org. For more information, contact Whittingham at info@hotelsccm.com or at (760) 247-9800.

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