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USO Bob Hope Legacy Reading Program Connects Military Families During COVID

By Eleanor Whaley, USO Public Relations and Social Media Specialist

For more than 60 years, legendary comedian Bob Hope traveled around the world supporting our nation’s service members and their families. Inspired by his dedication to the troops and their families, the USO founded the Bob Hope Legacy Reading Program in 2017. This program is largely driven by virtual, on-demand story time offerings, helping military families stay connected no matter where their service takes them. 

Throughout the past year, many military families were separated due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which limited travel, leave time, and opportunities to reunite. Staying linked to family became more important than ever as everyone was facing a new world of isolation and uncertainty. 

Prior to the pandemic, service members could visit participating USO locations, record themselves reading a book or story for their child, and have that recording and the book sent home to the special children in their lives. Although many USO locations were closed due to safety precautions, the Bob Hope Legacy Reading Program prioritized continued connection for military families. 

U.S. Navy Lt. j.g. Kamron Pratt, an intensive care unit nurse, records himself reading a book to his children at Erbil Air Base in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq, May 9, 2020. Pratt read to his children as part of the Bob Hope Legacy Reading Program that the staff at Erbil Air Base’s USO have modified to follow social distancing standards in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Regardless of circumstances, the USO and service members everywhere recognize the importance and significance this program has on military children and families. Despite the USO center being closed, USO Erbil, Iraq, quickly developed a solution to keep the program running. With the help of service members and USO volunteers, the team converted the bed of a pickup truck to serve as a makeshift “reading room,” for the recordings. They decorated it, set up a tripod, added fun props and a chair, and transported boxes of books. The USO team drove the truck around base, making sure they reached as many service members as possible with their new, unofficial “Bob Hope on the Road” reading room. 

Safe for Fundraising. Approved for All Uses. Actor Portrayals. 2016 Brand Team / Reingold Photo Shoot. The USO is a not-for-profit organization and not part of the Department of Defense. The use of DoD (Department of Defense) imagery does not constitute an endorsement by DoD.

For many civilian families, this year was the first year they experienced this level of uncertainty and separation from the people they love most. This month, as we celebrate Month of the Military Child, we recognize that for many military children, separation and uncertainty are the norm. Military children live unique lives, are resilient, and must adapt to many situations when their service member parent is on training or a deployment.

Bob Hope Legacy Reading Program gives military families the opportunity to be together virtually, even when facing separation. Kids can watch and listen to a bedtime story from Mom or Dad, to experience their favorite book in a new way, to hear their parent’s voice, and parents can also watch their kids grow as they receive recordings of their child reading. This program connects children with their parents and spouses to one another. Seeing and hearing their loved one can be just the encouragement they need to stay strong during long separations. 

Bob Hope Legacy Reading Program fosters stronger relationships, supports the needs of growing children, and creates a community for all who benefit from the program. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, like many USO programs, the Bob Hope Legacy Reading Program adapted. As we move forward, the Bob Hope Legacy Reading Program will continue to innovate so the USO can continue to bring closeness despite separation. 

Americans can give more than thanks to America’s military by supporting the USO and programs like this that keep our service members and their families connected. Visit uso.org to learn more.


All photos courtesy of the USO.

Featured image: Bob Hope Legacy Reading Program, Schofield Barracks, Hawaii. December 2017. Release on file. See Item ID 212218 for photo releases. The USO (United Service Organizations) is a not-for-profit organization and not part of the Department of Defense.

Author

  • The USO

    The USO is the leading nonprofit dedicated to strengthening the well-being of the people serving in America's military and their families. Since 1941, the USO has been by the side of service members throughout their military service. Impactful support is provided through our 250+ locations around the world, a robust care package delivery program, global entertainment, military spouse and youth programming, and much more, all made possible by donors, corporate partners, volunteers and staff. To learn more and support our critical mission around the globe, please visit USO.org or follow us on Facebook, Twitter/X, Instagram and LinkedIn.

1 Comment

  1. Sharita Knobloch

    Eleanor, thank you so much for sharing about the Bob Hope Legacy Reading Program! This last year has indeed been a rough one on milfams and milkids, but USO’s supportive and adaptable programs make SUCH a difference. Thank you for sharing this with our network– keep up the AWNsome work!!

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Supporting Our Military Children

Supporting Our Military Children

One thing that has been most important to me, as a military spouse, is figuring out how to best do this life while supporting our children with the changes and difficulties. When my children were very small, there were many times that my husband was away, and I had to parent my children alone.

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