CORONADO, Calif. (NNS) -- The first lady of California, Maria Shriver, met with a group of USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76) Sailors and their families May 16 to discuss the benefits the United Through Reading (UTR) program has to offer military members separated from their families during deployments.
United Through Reading is a worldwide program that allows deployed military parents to record themselves reading books. The videos are sent home to their children and spouses, giving their children the gift of seeing mom or dad while keeping them connected to the home.
Shriver, an author, broadcast journalist and mother of four children, said she took an interest in the program and wanted to find out how people can help.
"I just like to see a program that works," said Shriver. "I like to see somebody who had an idea and made it happen and it touches the lives of 200,000 people in the process. It's fantastic and I just think that's what America is all about."
During Ronald Reagan's maiden deployment in 2006, a total of 631 families participated in the UTR program and recorded more than 1,600 videos. On the recent three-month surge deployment, 199 families participated and recorded a total of 365 videos.
Lt. Cmdr. Brad Donnelly, from Ronald Reagan's engineering department, and his spouse participated in the program with their twin daughters, who were born during the recent surge deployment.
"I was able to build a bond and participate a little in their nurturing," said Donnelly.
His spouse said she was eager to participate in the UTR program.
"As my husband wasn't here to participate in those first few weeks, the United Through Reading program allowed us to have at least voice recognition with them," said Donnelly's wife. "My husband made a tape of him reading and we played it for the girls every day so that they could get to know daddy."
Ronald Reagan is currently undergoing a planned incremental availability in her homeport of San Diego following a three-month surge deployment in support of operations in the Western Pacific.
For more news from USS Ronald Reagan, visit www.news.navy.mil/local/cvn76/.