SUFFOLK, Virginia (NNS) -- Dozens of students excitedly made their way around Hillpoint Elementary School, May 5, to see their familiar classrooms transformed into small playgrounds for their annual "Field Day."
Waving and cheering to the children, Sailors from the aircraft carrier USS George Washington (CVN 73) came out as part of their Chief Petty Officer (CPO) 365 Phase I biweekly community relations (COMREL) event.
"I thought this would be a great chance for us to show who we are," said Machinist's Mate 1st Class Darren Kovas, a George Washington volunteer, whose children attend the school. "[It also] lets the kids here know that there are people outside of their school and outside of their community that care about them and that will take time out of their day to help them out and play with them."
The Sailors "manned up" a total of 18 stations throughout the school, that included a zombie walk, games of tug of war, and even a dunk tank.
"Normally we have to request a lot of parent volunteers," said Catherine Pichon, the school's principal. "Once we got the Navy to come out we really didn't need anymore, so now parents [we had volunteer] were able to stay with individual classes and stay with their child throughout the day."
In addition to Sailors helping run events, they provided an image that may have struck a chord with some children whose families could not attend.
"We have a lot of military families that come through to our school," said Pichon. "This [event] helps some of the kids who have parents who are deployed. It really makes them feel like they are still connected. We have great support from [the Navy] for our school."
Another George Washington Sailor reflected that sentiment.
"I've really enjoyed just being here with the kids and hearing them laugh and have a good time," said Electronics Technician 1st Class Darrell Stith. "Us being here shows presence and support for them and the community. I think it's so important for the kids to see that we care."
The amount of care that each volunteer put into the day directly contributed to the success of the event.
"I don't think we could do any of the stuff we do on such a large scale without the volunteers that we have," said Pichon. "I just think it's great that they're willing and able to help. It's so nice that they're willing to come out and give up their time."
Kovas stated that as part of the CPO 365 training, he and his team volunteer together once every two weeks, but the organizers want to ensure that they are always active in the community.
"They want us to get a feel for [community involvement] so that after Phase I we can take the same mentality we have now to our Sailors if we become chiefs or if we stay first class [petty officers]," said Kovas. "We know what it feels like to go out there and help people. We're now able to go back to our divisions and instill that in them. Everyone wins from this."
Sailors interested in volunteering for any future events and COMRELs can contact their command religious ministries department or speak with someone in their chain of command for upcoming opportunities.
For more information, visit http://www.navy.mil, http://www.facebook.com/usnavy, or http://www.twitter.com/usnavy.
For more news from USS George Washington (CVN 73), visit http://www.navy.mil/local/cvn73/.