Story by Michael Beaton, photos by Pamela Portland – USAG Ansbach Public Affairs Office
ANSBACH, Germany (Dec. 1, 2018) – More than 20 children, ages 6 to 18 from the Walburgisheim in Feucht (a children’s home) visited the U.S. Army Garrison Ansbach Dec. 1 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 and toured the helicopter hangars 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.
“They count down the days to the holiday visit – the fun activities, the big Chinook and Apache helicopters on displays and the activities at the American youth facilities on post,” said Isabella Semler, the Group Director of the Walburgisheim-Feucht Kinderheim. “they also really enjoy talking and celebrating with American families and children, the ’American’ holiday snacks as well as the sing-along at the end-of-the-day party in the bowling center – which includes a visit from Santa and the presentation of gifts.” said Semler.
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. Moser works through American military unit family readiness support assistants to help charitable organizations find an agency and individual sponsors for the visit.
“The goal and purpose is to give disadvantaged children – those without parents during the holidays – a chance to interact with a family and feel part of one each year.” said Ansbach Community Child and Youth Services (CYS) Coordinator Veronica Bischoff. “The holiday good cheer, friendship and belonging, these are the takeaways for all the participants; German or American.” Said Bischoff.
Judy and Heath Kracht-Hielsberg have been hosting a child in this event since 2007, when Heath was stationed at Storck Barracks in Illesheim. After they left Germany, the couple returned every year to participate in this annual tradition. They are now living in Germany once again and have been holiday parents to 11 year-old Florian since he was four years old. “The thought of missing this, well, if we can be here, why not? He hugs me and says I love you and that is all it takes to know it’s where we should be,” said Judy and Heath, finishing each other’s sentences.
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.
Semler said that the children and teens look forward to the event and start planning for it months ahead of time. “The kids who have taken part in previous years pass the word to 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 passport they get to American culture, no one wants to miss out,” Semler said.
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.
Ansbach deputy to the garrison commander, Ms. Kathy Gavle, 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.
“It’s a true 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.”
To see more photos of the event, visit https://www.flickr.com/photos/usagansbachphotos/albums/72157702825148091
The U.S. Army Garrison Ansbach (USAG Ansbach) Military Community is located in the Franconian region of Bavaria and is spread across six sites and nine kasernes dispersed around the city of Ansbach and the village of Illesheim: Barton Barracks, Bismarck Kaserne, Bleidorn Kaserne, Franken Kaserne, Katterbach Kaserne, Oberdachstetten Training Area, Shipton Kaserne, Storck Barracks, and Urlas Kaserne. Today, Ansbach is the home of the 12th Combat Aviation Brigade (12th CAB), the community’s largest tenant unit. USAG Ansbach continues its vital mission of streamlining base support operations management, allowing tactical commanders to concentrate on their essential training and missions. The garrison takes pride in its support to more than 6,000 Soldiers, civilians, and family members, working and living within the USAG Ansbach area. To learn more about the people and facilities of the U.S. Army Garrison Ansbach (USAG Ansbach) and the people they support in Ansbach, Katterbach and Illesheim, visit the community website at http://ansbach.army.mil