Military Families Gather for Winter Fun

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Eric Jungels
  • N.D. National Guard Public Affairs
FARGO, N.D. -- A few more inches of snow came just in time for families of Airmen and Soldiers of the North Dakota National Guard, who gathered for a meal and winter activities at the Armed Forces Reserve Center in Fargo on Jan. 19.

The Winter Holiday Party for Military Kids event, which was sponsored by American Legion Auxiliary Unit 02 and open to military families of all branches, included winter-themed games and horse-drawn sleigh rides provided by the North Dakota National Guard Child and Youth Program.

For Nikki Braaten, Child and Youth Program coordinator, the party was the culmination of countless hours spent organizing the event and preparing a host of games and activities.

"Events like these offer children a chance to interact with other military kids," Braaten said. "We want to give families opportunities for their children to learn life skills and teamwork in a safe environment, and we want to give busy service members the chance to enjoy fun, quality time with their children."

At the event, the Hovland family was first to enjoy the horse-drawn sleigh ride. Bryan Hovland, a squad leader and vehicle inspector for the North Dakota Army National Guard's 231st Brigade Support Battalion, and his wife, Heather Hovland, enjoyed reconnecting with their Norwegian roots during a calm ride with their daughters Kayla, 14, and Annika, 9.

"We go to every single one of the events that the Child and Youth Program put on," Heather said. "We like the spring event that takes place every year, and it's fun to be a part of the Christmas and winter events too."

This year's winter party, which likely doubled last year's attendance, is part of the family outreach program aimed at supporting military and their families through events and programs that offer opportunities to interact and learn from one another.

The Hovland family, from Argusville, N.D., has been attending Child and Youth Program events since Bryan joined the Guard nearly nine years ago.

"After Bryan deployed, and since he's returned, we've always made sure to make it to events like these, because they offer a chance to reconnect with other military families," Heather said. "It's also fun to participate and support the program, since they put such great events together."

The North Dakota National Guard Child and Youth Program supports the social, emotional and academic needs of military children and youth. It encourages the development of positive self-esteem, self-confidence, team skills and leadership abilities.