Fort Riley, Kansas



Fall Fest safe, creative venue for families to connect

By Season Osterfeld | 1ST INF. DIV. POST | October 20, 2017

     Parents escorted spooky skeletons, daring Jedi and stealthy ninjas through the games and activities of Fall Fest and Pumpkin Patch for Exceptional Family Member Program, Family Advocacy Program and New Parent Support Program participants Oct. 14 at Army Community Service.

      This year, personnel decorated the facility with a pirate theme and some dressed in costume to match.

     “It’s a small scale, more intimate (event) for our EFMP, New Parent Support (Program) and FAP participants,” said Erika Herrington, EFMP systems navigator. “Families can come out and network, get to meet one another and just do something that’s special for those families.”

     Upon arrival, participants could pick their pumpkin to bring home or paint at one of the craft tables. For those wanting to hold off on decorating their pumpkin, small, wooden treasure chests and canvasses were available for them to create their masterpiece.

      The USO Fort Riley also provided a cookie decorating station and Fort Riley Fire and Emergency Services arrived with their mascot, Sparky, to greet attendees. Other Fort Riley organizations also set up stations and provided treats for everyone to enjoy.

     Samantha Travers, wife of Sgt. Steven Travers, 1st Squadron, 4th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, attended with her family for the first time. She said she appreciated the hands on nature of the activities for the kids.

     “I think it’s awesome,” Travers said. “The kids get to do fun things. We attended a few of the EFMP things this year and the kids really enjoy it.”

     Events for EFMP, NPSP and FAP families are important because it brings the families together and introduces them to one another, Herrington said. It helps them to establish a community and know they are not alone no matter what challenges they may face.

     “We have a mixed crowd,” she said. “Some of them are new arriving families to Fort Riley. Some are seasoned vets who have been here for a while. Often times, what we can do or what happens is there’s a match up with a seasoned family to a new one and they get to make and share stories.  It’s good to feel like you’re not alone — be there with someone that’s been there before.”

      For the kids, Fall Fest provided a safe place for them to play and be themselves, Herrington said.

      This is something Travers said she loved most about EFMP events for her family.

     “A lot of the kids can’t really do much, like my daughter — she has special needs, so she gets really bashful and shy when it comes to Halloween and doesn’t really want to do trick-or-treating or anything,” Travers said. “This gives her an opportunity to socialize with other kids and have fun.”

      While the pumpkin patch was originally planned to be outdoors, the weather had other plans. The staff worked together to move it inside and ensure everything still ran smoothly.

      “The weather does not stop the show for sure,” Herrington said.

      Carrie Barnett, New Parent Support home visitor, shared a similar view of the event with Travers.

      “It’s safe for them to come here, dress up, do a little trick-or-treating and get a pumpkin,” she said.

      This is Barnett’s third year being a part of the decorating team for Fall Fest — an event she said she loves.

      “It’s the fun part of my job,” she said.

      For Herrington, seeing the children happy and meeting new Fort Riley residents at the event is like being with her own family.

      “It’s just nice,” she said. “It’s like a family reunion of sorts.”