Hope fills the heart

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Air Force photograph by Staff Sgt. Franklin R. Ramos

Senior Airman Spencer Hill, 56th Civil Engineer Squadron firefighter briefs the children of Childhelp about firefighting equipment during the “Day of Hope” event at Luke Air Force Base, Ariz., Dec. 21, 2018. Childhelp is a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping victims of child abuse, neglect and at-risk children.

Hope can come in many forms, and for the children who visited Luke Air Force Base, Ariz., for the “Day of Hope,” Dec. 21, 2018, hope came from the Airmen of the 56th Fighter Wing.

Fifteen children from Childhelp, a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping victims of child abuse, neglect and at risk children, visited the base for this year’s event and each was assigned an Airman mentor for the day.

“Today is an opportunity for us to bond with these children and give them hope. We’re letting them know that there is a light at the end of the tunnel and just keep pushing through whatever struggle it is they may be going through,” said Tech. Sgt. Elizabeth Briones, 56th Security Forces Squadron noncommissioned officer in charge of pass and registration. “The visit comes after a successful event in June, when organizers decided to make it an annual tradition.

Military working dog handlers with the 56th Security Forces Squadron demonstrate how a MWD apprehends a suspect during the “Day of Hope” event at Luke Air Force Base, Ariz., Dec. 21, 2018. The 56th SFS has partnered with Childhelp for more than 14 years through an annual Christmas toy and back-to-school supply drives.

“It was just so meaningful to the children and they couldn’t stop talking about it all the way home. One little boy told me it was the best day of his life,” said Kathy Emig, director of wings and Arizona chapter coordinator of Childhelp. “So we wanted to bring another group of children to have this experience. To be treated special, have contact with the Airmen and have that feeling of hope. There are people out there that truly do care about them, support them and love them.”

The visit began at the military working dog facility and continued on to several units including the fire station, air traffic control tower, explosive ordnance disposal and the 62nd Fighter Squadron.

“I don’t know who got more out of it. The mentors or the kids. Everyone from the base has been so supportive,” said Jerry Haupt, 56th Security Forces Squadron chief of standards and evaluations and “Day of Hope” event organizer. “We’ve been volunteering with Childhelp for 14 years with toy, clothing, and school supply drives, and this year we reached out to the whole 56th Mission Support Group. We gathered more than 700 toys for the Childhelp center.”

Haupt also added, “When a child has someone that invests in them and believes in them, they can move mountains.”
 

Col. Robert Sylvester, 56th Mission Support Group commander speaks to the children of Childhelp during the “Day of Hope” event at Luke Air Force Base, Ariz., Dec. 21, 2018. The children visited a variety of units around base where they had the opportunity to watch demonstrations and try on gear.