By Lance Cpl. Antwaun L. Jefferson
The Exceptional Family Member Program held their holiday event where more than 30 families enjoyed an evening filled with holiday treats, activities, crafts and a special visit from jolly old Saint Nicholas at the Lincoln Military Housing Family Center Party Room on Friday.
EFMP is for Marines with families members with exceptional needs. The primary purpose of the EFMP is to ensure the continuum of care for eligible family members by identifying families with special needs and maximizing the provision of medical, educational and local services.
“The biggest part of this event was to have the families come together, and connect and share similar situations,” said Monique O’Neil, program manager for the Exceptional Family Member Program. “Some of these families go through ups and downs throughout the year, and this is a chance for them to reflect and enjoy each other.”
As children arrived, their faces instantly filled with glee as they set their sights on the Christmas decorations covering every inch of the rooms. Many of the children came in with bursts of energy, but luckily for their parents, the EFMP staff had toys, and arts and crafts stations to keep the children occupied.
The children had the chance to make Rudolph ornaments for their Christmas tree, a Grinch and a wreath. They even constructed reindeer food made with oatmeal, raisins and sugar, so that the night before Christmas, they could sprinkle it on their lawn so they could feed the “reindeer.”
“This is my third year coming to this event with my children,” said Sarai, parent. “For me, with my husband gone on deployment, this is about fellowship and being with other parents who are going through similar situations. It is a great support system and a fun event for the children.”
The children and their parents seemed to be pleased with the food prepared for them. There were string beans, macaroni and cheese, carrots, celery and chicken tenders. The children seemed to enjoy the Christmas cookies but, already being full of energy, their parents made sure to keep their children’s intake of sugar to minimum.
The main event was when Santa Claus arrived. Similar to the opening of stores on Black Friday, the children rushed Santa Claus trying to get hugs. After countless hugs, Santa Claus settled in the living room area and began passing out toys to the children. The toys were already individually packaged by and given to Santa Claus before hand by the parents.
“I volunteered just to give back for the holiday season,” said Sgt. Christopher Lee, platoon sergeant for Base Motor Transportation. “This was a great event and seeing the smiles on the children’s faces when Santa Claus arrived was priceless.”
Traditionally, elves are known to be the little helpers for Santa Claus. This being a Marine Corps Base, the EFMP staff decided to change it up and have Marines in their Dress Blues help out jolly, old Saint Nicholas. As one Marine volunteer read the Marine version of “The Night before Christmas,” to the children, others helped out by greeting families at the door.
“This is just one of many family events that we have,” O’Neil said. “We also have workshops and classes that educate families on how to be resilient and take care of themselves. I recommend families to come out to any, if not all, of our upcoming events.”