RAF MILDENHALL, England --
With more than a million brightly-colored building blocks to keep them busy, children and adults spent a few hours constructing racing cars, buildings, a tower and just having fun together during the third annual “Young Engineer Camp” at the Galaxy Club on RAF Mildenhall, Feb. 11, 2017.
The Airman and Family Readiness Center hosted the event for families of the Exceptional Family Member Program.
Family members, whether children or other dependents, become automatically enrolled with the EFMP if they have any medical or educational special need, including allergies, asthma, behavioral concerns or if they are on any type of individualized educational plan or school-related issues.
“We had two time slots for families to choose from, with multiple activities going on,” said Connie Eberhardt, 100th Force Support Squadron EFMP family support coordinator. “We had free-build stations where families could build anything they wanted, car-racing ramps, a city-building section, models to build, and a challenge for children to try and build a tower which touched the ceiling.”
Children were also treated to a visit from a building block character, and had the chance to have their photo taken with him.
“We also had a sensory/quiet area for kids needing to take a break,” said Eberhardt, adding that 29 families participated in the event during the day. “It can be challenging for some of our families to go out to bigger events where there are large numbers of people, so having a smaller, scaled-down event on base allows those families to enjoy these types of activities with not quite so much sensory input and concerns.
“It also provides an opportunity for parents to get together and share some of the challenges that they may have; we see a lot of interaction between parents,” the family support coordinator remarked.
Parents and children alike seemed to enjoy the day, and the unstructured activities meant they could build and make whatever they wanted.
“I think it’s awesome that we can just come here and the kids can play,” said Master Sgt. Kelly McKenzie, 48th Fighter Wing continuous process improvement office superintendent, who brought three out of her four children to the event. “Having the availability of so many building blocks – we don’t often get that at home. My kids, age 12, 8 and 4, told me they were having tons of fun and they were very excited to come today. I love that there are activities to get them out of the house, and enjoy something that’s not very expensive.
“I enjoyed the family time; because of the large age range of our kids – my oldest is 15 – we can all come and enjoy doing something together that we all love,” McKenzie said, amidst excited chatter from her children. “This event is something all ages can enjoy, and I think it’s really great for EFMP kids to be able to get out and interact with others, and be included in activities. They may not always feel like they are part of the group, but with activities like this they can be included.”
Eberhardt remarked that the day was a complete success.
“There was lots of positive feedback, and lots of smiles on the kids’ faces,” she said. “These events wouldn’t be possible without volunteers who offer their time to work with the children, and help with set up and tear down. I’m very appreciative of our Airmen and families who take time out of their day to help out.”
For more information on the EFMP and events, contact your local MTF.