ANSBACH, Germany (Dec. 6, 2017) – Some 20 children, ages 6 to 18 from the Walburgisheim in Feucht (a children’s home) visited the U.S. Army Garrison Ansbach Dec. 2 to celebrate the holiday season. During the day youth and staff from the children’s home along with their American family sponsors participated in a variety of fun activities and holiday themed events on Katterbach Kaserne.
Children from the Kinderheim have been invited to join Ansbach community families during the holidays since 1987. In recent years individual Soldiers have also participated, acting as sponsors and hosts to the children during their visit.
“The children really look forward to the holiday visit and enjoy the fun activities, the chance to roam around the big helicopter static displays, talk with American families and children, munch on the holiday snacks, sing songs and take part in the end-of-the-day party, which includes a visit from Santa and the presentation of gifts.” said Ansbach Community Child and Youth Services (CYS) Coordinator Veronica Bischoff.
In 2008 Bischoff and her family, who have been regular event participants for over a decade, took the step and subsequently formally adopted their Kinderheim guest, a six year old German boy. “He’s experienced the day now as both a guest and a sponsor, it’s a day our family looks forward to every year.” said Bischoff.
“The purpose is to give disadvantaged children – those without parents during the holidays – a chance to interact with a family and feel part of one every year.” Bischoff said. “The holiday cheer, friendship and belonging the children experience today makes for positive memories that last a lifetime.”
Children from the home, located about 9 miles south of Nürnberg in the town of Feucht, have been guests of the Ansbach community during the holidays for more than 30 years, said Helga Moser, German-American liaison for the 12th Combat Aviation Brigade (12th CAB). The American sponsors help to give the children a sense of inclusion and belonging, Moser said.
The Ansbach Spouses and Civilians Club hosted the annual event with support from the local American Legion Post 1982, the Ansbach and Franken chapters of Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW Posts 10708 and 9342) and the Ansbach Child and Youth Services (CYS) office.
Depending on their ages and interests, the children are treated to bowling, static displays of military vehicles and aircraft, Karaoke singing and dancing, a fun, goofy photo booth, a bouncy castle with a kids DJ, indoor sporting events and board games.
Moser works through American military unit family readiness support assistants to help charitable organizations find an agency and individual sponsors for the visit.
“What is unique about this kind of event is that children get to interact with American families and they are included – many for the first time – in a lot of traditions and activities different from the German ones that they might be used to.” Moser said. “It’s a great way for any child to participate in another culture and celebrate the Christmas holidays.
Isabella Semler, the Group Director of the Walburgisheim-Feucht Kinderheim said that the children and teens look forward to the event and start planning for it months before. “The kids who have received the invitation in previous years pass the word to our new arrivals and it’s the talk of the facility for months prior.” she said. “The visit to Katterbach Kaserne, the families that they spend time together with, the new friends they meet and the window they get to American culture, it’s all very interesting and inclusive; no one wants to be left out, especially at this time of year,” Semler said.
Ansbach garrison commander, Col. Benjamin Jones, and the 12th CAB commander, Col. Kenneth Cole, along with their families, were on hand and participated in the day’s events, and encourage interested families and Soldiers in the Ansbach community to look into taking part next year.
“This is a truly joyous experience for our families; it reminds us all just what the holiday season is about: sharing and giving.” said Jones.
“It’s that rare win-win event.” said Moser, “Americans and Germans coming together for the holidays in a unique and meaningful way. Both sides take away something special.”
Photos and story by Michael Beaton, USAG Ansbach Public Affairs