NORFOLK, Va. (NNS) -- Marcia Ellis, the Navy East Coast National Program Manager for United Through Reading (UTR), presented Capt. Joseph Clarkson, USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75) commanding officer, with more than 100 UTR letters of appreciation March 4.
The letters were for volunteers who supported the program during Truman's recent deployment.
UTR is a nonprofit organization that unites families facing physical separation by having parents read aloud to their children via DVD. Truman's program was coordinated by Hospital Corpsman 1st Class (FMF) Justin Pearce with assistance from several departmental coordinators.
"It was an honor to present Captain Clarkson with our after action folder," said Ellis. "Petty Officer Pearce did a fantastic job coordinating the program. What impressed me, in addition to the almost 1,000 recordings sent home from Truman, was the magnitude of managing 100 volunteers from every department of the ship. We estimated there were almost 3,000 family beneficiaries from the program on the deployment."
Although the main idea of the program is to make separation easier for families, it offers deployed parents a chance to have an active role in the growth and development of their children from remote locations around the world.
"The benefits of reading aloud are both educationally and emotionally positive for the children, "said Ellis. "Children who are read to, develop vocabulary and comprehension skills faster than other children. They also feel security in seeing their parent in a safe environment. Children have been pictured touching their parent on the TV, talking back to it and even trying to climb into the lap of the deployed parent."
Program managers and volunteers must rely on feedback from participants and their families to gauge the level of the program's success. Thanks to surveys conducted via the internet, Pearce and his team were able to see the results of their efforts very quickly.
"I just remember the looks on the children's faces from the pictures sent back to the ship and the website," Pearce said. "It is wonderful that a DVD can have that much impact."
Survey comments praised the program and many showed the gratitude of the adult family members taking care of the children back home.
"What a fabulous program," said a Truman family member. "Thank you for providing such a special and meaningful way to stay connected. My daughter can see her daddy every day."
Pearce said although the ship is no longer deployed, he remains committed to keeping families close through the program and he anticipates a demand for it. The program will still be available in a limited form for those Sailors who are receiving temporary orders, individual augmentees, or for other separation such as non-custodial parents.
Anyone interested in making a video or becoming a volunteer may contact Pearce directly or contact their departmental UTR coordinator.
For more news from USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75), visit www.navy.mil/local/cvn75/.