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Glow golf unites families of deployed service members

Glow golf unites families of deployed service members

Derrick Randerson, 6, putts as mom, Kendra, cheers him during a deployed family program event at Glow Golf in Colorado Springs, Colorado, Feb. 17, 2018. The program is designed to provide support, resources and a sense of belonging to the families of deployed service members. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Wes Wright)

Glow golf unites families of deployed service members

Families gather during a deployed family program event at Glow Golf in Colorado Springs, Colorado, Feb. 17, 2018. More than 20 people attended the event designed to bring support and a sense of belonging to the families of deployed service members. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Wes Wright)

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. -- Schriever families bonded during a deployed family event hosted by the Airman and Family Readiness Center at Glow Golf, Colorado Springs, Colorado, Feb. 17.

“The deployed families program exists so we can make sure we take care of the families of our deployed men and women,” said Master Sgt. Peter Uson, non-commissioned officer in charge of the A&FRC. “It provides support, resources and most importantly the sense of belonging.”

More than 20 family members showed up to the event, which saw children and adults navigating their way through a course lit entirely by black light, creating a glow effect.

Libby Whitworth, 7, spent the day with her dad, Tech. Sgt. Dwight Whitworth, quality assurance non-commissioned officer in charge with the 25th Space Range Squadron, who recently returned from deployment; she was one of the children “glowing” at the event.

“I’m glad my dad is back. I missed him when he was gone,” she said. “My favorite part was probably the loopty-loop. When you hit the ball and it goes ‘whooo whooo’ and then goes into the hole, that was fun,” she said demonstrating the ball’s motion with her arms.

Libby and her mom, Brittany, attended several deployed family events while dad was gone.

“Dwight was gone 227 days,” Brittany said. “It was great to have these events while he was gone and have a connection with our military family. It really adds meaning to the reintegration. Now to attend events with him here, it instills Air Force pride to know we survived this as a family.”

Dwight agreed.

“I really liked that they were able to come to these events while I was gone,” he said “Knowing they had this avenue of support was a huge relief. The guys in my squadron were great and our church was great, but to think that big Air Force does something like this is special.”

Uson said the relief provided to the service member is a primary goal of the program.

“If families aren’t taken care of, it takes a big toll on the military member,” Uson said. “We do things like this so they don’t have to worry about their families. It helps keep their focus on the mission.”

While the Whitworths are on the celebratory homestretch of the deployment experience, Kendra Randerson and her children are in the beginning stages, as their father, U.S. Army Capt. Derrick Randerson, deployed two weeks ago.

“I think it’s awesome,” she said. “It’s a wonderful opportunity for families to get together at no or low cost, especially at a time when you need togetherness. This is my first event and I was really surprised. It’s great we don’t have to pay and get free food.’ The kids are having so much fun.”

According to Uson, providing these experiences at no cost is a key component of the program. Glow Golf was sponsored by the Schriever Air Force Base Chief’s Group and the Resiliency for Recharge program.

“We do our best to make sure these are free,” Uson said. “We don’t want cost to be a factor because taking care of family shouldn’t involve a cost to the family.”

Brittany Whitworth said the no-cost policy makes it easy to attend and shows how much the military cares.

“I can see as a military spouse, it would really be easy to get into a funk trying to manage life without dad if cost were a factor,” she said. “That might be one more reason to stay home. This way, there’s no reason not to come.”

Randerson was heartened seeing families like the Whitworths demonstrating successful reintegration.

“For my kids, I don’t think it’s hit home just yet that he’s not going to be home for a while,” she said. “We will definitely come to more of these. They’re having so much fun and I think more of these will help them over time.”

While golf was the highlight of the day, Libby revealed the part she loved best about welcoming home her father.

“He told me when he got back I could get a pet,” she said. “I didn’t know if I would get it. Sure enough, I got a pet. It was a hamster and I love it.”

The next deployed family day is a breakfast at the A&FRC preceding Schriever’s annual Spring Fling event March 27. Attendees will get an advance VIP opportunity to meet “Harold the Bunny,” watch movies, make arts and crafts, and more.

For more information, call the A&FRC at 567-3920.