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EFMP hosts dinner with Sparky

By Airman 1st Class Sydney Campbell 2nd Bomb Wing Public Affairs

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The Exceptional Family Members Program hosted a Dinner with Sparky the Fire Dog for EFMP families at the Barksdale Airman and Family Readiness Center Oct. 12, 2018.

EFMP was created in the early 1980s to help military families with special needs.

“EFMP-FS [family support side] is extremely important as we connect our families' needs with resources through events, educational workshops, local agencies and so on,” said Ana Brown, 2nd Force Support Squadron A&FRC community readiness consultant. “We try to bring our families together in settings where they can share their strengths and challenges, where they can exist with no judgment and thus become more resilient.”

For the families, this night was especially important because it fostered an open and friendly environment for families to interact with emergency responders including fire fighters and security forces Airmen.

“All of us tend to overreact in emergency situations and children with exceptionalities have different, accentuated reactions to those situations,” Brown said. “Many tend to avoid contact due to fear, run away or panic. It all depends on the exceptionality. Exposing them to first responders in a non-stressful manner can help mitigate behaviors in the event of real emergencies.”

Feedback from the community about the event has been positive encouraging Brown, and others, to keep helping EFMP families.

“The best part of the event was seeing our families' smiles, especially the little ones –they were mesmerized with the lights from the fire truck and police car,” Brown said with a smile. “It was magical. This is why we love our job as EFMP coordinators.”

The event wouldn’t have been a success without the first responders who volunteered, Brown added.

 Volunteers from the 2nd Security Forces Squadron and the 2nd Civil Engineer Squadron fire department could also see the value that the dinner offered.

“Talking to these kids was rewarding because you actually get to see the people you could be impacting,” Wilson said. “If we need to respond to an emergency, they now know we are here to help, they won’t be so scared of the lights or sirens.”

While Dinner with Sparky was fun for the kids, it was also gratifying for the volunteers.

“It was wonderful getting to interact with the children and parents,” said Senior Airman Taylor Wilson, 2nd SFS installation patrolman. “They played with our gear and we talked a little bit about what we do.”

EFMP is here to help families especially during trying times. However, this event left EFMP families with a smile on their face. They had fun while still learning and meeting with those who protect and save lives in a sensory safe environment.