USO Fort Campbell will warm up the holiday for Soldiers and their Families with the help of socks, Santa and S’mores and the elves behind the magic are kicking off the fun Friday.
“Part of the USO’s mission is to connect our active-duty military with Family and home and country and I think that’s especially important during the holiday season,” said Eva Nicol, center operations and programs manager. “We always want the USO to feel like home, but especially during the holidays when people are maybe separated from their Families or some traditions. Having Santa here, having cookies, having cocoa on a cold day, we just think that kind of gives a sense of home and comfort.”
The USO will host its Holiday Kickoff with Socks for Soldiers 3-6 p.m. Friday at 6145 Desert Storm Ave.
“We are asking people to wear their crazy socks and Santa is going to be making an appearance at this one so it will be a lot of fun for everyone,” Nicol said.
Families are encouraged to wear their “craziest pair of socks” and pose for photos with their loved ones in the festive footwear. A pair of “Soldier Socks” will be given to all active-duty, Guard and Reserve service members.
“[Socks for Soldiers is] a company and what their mission is, for every pair of socks they sell, they donate a pair of socks to our active-duty Soldiers and military so they are going to be here at that event with us,” Nicol said. “They have thousands of socks they are ready to give away.”
The socks are only for Soldiers but Family members can pick them up if a service member can’t.
Children will have a chance to color their own sock designs.
“My favorite part of the event is they’re having a sock coloring contest for the kids and the winner of that coloring contest, that design will be their featured design for the spring line and it will be named after the Soldier [who is connected to that child],” Nicol said.
The USO will serve up popcorn, snacks and laughs in the USO Event Center for Holiday Family Movie Night, featuring “Elf” Dec. 8.
Buddy and his USO friends will serve up belly laughs beginning at 4 p.m. The event is free and open to active-duty Soldiers, Guard, Reserves and their Families.
“We have some elf ears we will be handing out to the kiddos and popcorn, snacks, just a really nice evening,” Nicol said.
Santa’s Workshop features fun for all ages 4-6 p.m. Monday at the USO and s’mores will be the icing on the cake.
Other holiday activities include ornament making, Christmas tree crafts, stockings to color and other activities tailored to children 8 years old and younger.
“It’s kind of like we’ve transformed the events center into toy land where I picture it as a scene out of the movie ‘Rudolph,’” Nicol said. “We’ll have stockings they are making. We are making ornaments and doing some cool reindeer crafts and there is coloring, so it’s for the littles, age-wise, activity-wise.”
S’mores with Santa will follow 6-7 p.m. and will be fun for all ages, she said.
Santa’s Workshop and S’mores with Santa both required registration because of space restrictions and high demand. Nicol said the USO is reaching out to all who registered and asking that if they cannot make it, to cancel with at least 24-hour notice so others can attend.
Those who don’t show up or cancel in advance can have their USO reservation privileges suspended, Nicol said.
A hot chocolate bar will be on the menu 2-4 p.m. Tuesday.
“That’s going to be here in the snack bar, so they’ll be able to get a cup of hot cocoa and we’ll have some toppings like marshmallows and whipped cream,” Nicol said.
But the biggest event, open to all active-duty Soldiers, Reserves, and Guard regardless of income or rank is the annual Great Gift Give Away on Wednesday, Nicol said.
“We collect toy donations, book donations, DVDs, games, it’s a really large collective give-away we host,” she said.
Details will be posted on Facebook and registration opens online 7 p.m. Friday.
“We’ll have stations set up so each Family will receive a board game, each Family will receive a DVD or movie, each child will receive a book and each child will receive a toy,” Nicol said. “Some people use it as an activity, a fun program they bring the whole Family to. Some people want to use it as something that supplements their holiday giving.”
Volunteers are still needed and donations are being accepted through Monday. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
The USO will host a holiday dinner with the help of the Gary Sinise Foundation 5-6:30 p.m. Thursday. Mission BBQ will prepare the meal.
Cookies with Santa will be another chance for children to visit with Mr. Claus 2-4 p.m. Dec. 13.
“We are going to have the big man here and he is going to be handing out cookies and there will be opportunities to take photos with him,” Nichol said.
More details on the events will be posted on USO Fort Campbell’s Facebook page, which also has links to sign up for events that require registration.
“Check our Facebook because that’s the best way of getting the most up to date information about our holiday programming,” Nichol said.