Sesame Street shows military children they’re not alone

It’s not every day that Elmo, Cookie Monster and their friends visit the Stuttgart military community.

So, when the Sesame Street characters came to Patch Barracks Oct. 2, both children (and their parents) were ready.

A total of 1,650 children and community members attended the two performances, which were part of the Sesame Street USO Experience for Military Families and Sesame Workshop’s Talk, Listen, Connect initiative, an outreach program for military children experiencing the effects of deployment.

Before the first show, lines stretched around the Patch Fitness Center, and the gymnasium was full of spinning Elmo toys as children waited for the real one to appear.

When the furry, red monster did come out and begin performing his favorite songs, the children showed their appreciation by dancing and singing along.

Some of them had clearly been practicing at home.

 Besides dancing and singing, Elmo talked about the times when his Daddy goes away. “There are a lot of things that can help you feel better,” he told them, “like when Elmo’s Mommy reads Elmo a story.”

His friends joined in helping him feel better — Rosita sang about feelings in Spanish, and Cookie Monster made an instrument from a jar of cookies.

“I loved the part with the dancing and cookies,” said Mira Benson, 6. “They were singing about when people go away. I moved away.”

The half-hour performance’s relevance to military children is what makes it such a valuable tool, said USO Stuttgart center manager, Ingrid Bruns. “I’m hoping they get a better sense that they’re not alone in this military life they live in [with] deployments, separations and moving around.”

The show was part of Sesame Street’s first tour of Europe.

“I was blown away by how much these kids participated,” said Laura Percy, a member of the Sesame Street outreach team. “They were incredible — this was probably the best crowd in Europe.”

Watching the children relate to the characters also made Percy feel that the outreach is helping them cope.

“The best part of the show is seeing those kids getting so excited to see their idols and best friends,” Percy added. “It really hits home that Elmo is going through the same things that they’re going through.”