6,000 Highlights: ‘The Little C.H.A.M.P.S – Child Heroes Attached to Military Personnel’

Photo courtesy of Harmony Hearth, LLC.

by Debbie Fink, M.A.

Edu-tainer and USO Tour Vet

“What was the highlight?” This is the sound bite question I’ve heard most upon my recent return from a whirlwind USO Tour to mainland Japan and Okinawa, wherein I had the honor of ‘edu-taining’ over 6,000 “C.H.A.M.P.S” – Child Heroes Attached to Military Personnel – during 26 performances in 13 DoDEA schools over 10 days.

Was it the knowledge that this tour allowed us to reach, teach, and touch the hearts, souls, and minds of 6,000 Champs – saluting their selfless service as unsung heroes, while validating their military-connected challenges? Ultimately, they ‘inherited’ their service-by-proxy.

Was it the fact that as a self-confessed Andrews Sisters Wannabe –clocking in 1,000 USO performances over their illustrious careers –that performing for our troops’ families with the USO was exhilarating unto itself? After all, the USO has been lifting the spirits of our troops for decades; more recently adding our Nation’s Champs to those requiring attention.

Was it the understanding that our Champs deserve a children’s book about them and for them, to help build the bridge of understanding between them and their civilian classmates and educators? Our book, “The Little C.H.A.M.P.S – Child Heroes Attached to Military Personnel,” does just that. After all, the White House’s “Strengthening Our Military Families: Meeting America’s Commitment” documents the sentiment that our Champs feel misunderstood in public schools by their civilian classmates and educators (2011). The term “Champs” was coined for this public health and education initiative. Thanks to the USO’s generosity, each Champ received a copy to take home.

Was it the awareness that the book would never have been as “wise” as it is, without the input from the servicemembers of the five branches, multiple ranks and relevant professions, as well as from our cherished military-connected alliances? These valued alliances are with: the USO, Military Child Education Coalition, United Through Reading, Armed Services YMCA, American Red Cross, AUSA Family Programs, Operation Homefront, National Military Family Association, Operation CHAMPS; and, most recently, the Air Force Association. The story reflects a collective body of hard-earned wisdom.

Was it the privilege of collaborating with the USO in conjunction with DoDEA and DoDEA’s stellar staff, striving to meet the academic, social, and emotional needs of our Champs overseas? When all is said and done, DoDEA faithfully educates ~85,000 of our Nation’s ~1.2 million Champs as they move around the globe (an average of 6-9 times over their school years, according to MCEC).

Was it the educational drive to create supplemental ‘edu-tainment’ to the children’s book? ‘Edu-tainment’ that transforms the pedagogy of Harvard’s Dr. Howard Gardner’s Theory of Multiple Intelligences, reaching and teaching to children of multiple intelligences and learning styles? As in: literacy and academic enrichment for cognitive learners; music for aural learners; visual cues and art for visual learners; discussions of emotions and virtues for emotive learners; and ASL and dance movement for kinesthetic learners. Add to that gobs of gratitude and joy for all learners. In addition, there’s the comprehensive “TLC Curricular Supplement” developed with the innovative Angela Wilson, DoDEA’s 2012 Teacher of the Year, and delivered to each DoDEA principal before our visit.

Was it the opportunity to ‘give back’ in a meaningful, tangible, educational, heartfelt manner to these most deserving Champs? You bet. Was it the opportunity to inspire and record “The Little Champs” song for these Champs? Oh yes. Taught to them by DoDEA’s devoted music educators, you too can clap and toe-tap along! Imagine hearing 6,000 voices singing their song.

To answer the sound bite question “What was the highlight?” with a sound bite answer, my response has been, and remains: “There were, indeed, 6,000 highlights. . . . ”

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