Bertram Rantin

Military families get a Disney-style salute (+ video)

Josh Bixler of Irmo is greeted with a kiss by his 3-year-old daughther, Addison, who took part in Wednesday’s celebration with her twin sister, Payton and 1-year-old brother Russo.
Josh Bixler of Irmo is greeted with a kiss by his 3-year-old daughther, Addison, who took part in Wednesday’s celebration with her twin sister, Payton and 1-year-old brother Russo. BRANTIN@THESTATE.COM

There was no mystery regarding the heroes of the young military charges Wednesday at Colonial Life Arena.

As arena staff members busily prepared for the opening of this weekend’s “Disney on Ice Let’s Celebrate” performance, the show assisted in a special nod to area parents serving in the Armed Forces during a “Let’s Celebrate Our Heroes” party for military children.

And if getting to craft hero sticks and special notes to their parents wasn’t thrill enough, the youngsters received an added treat when their heroes surprised them with an unexpected visit, accompanied by none other than Mickey Mouse himself.

The gathering was in celebration of April’s “Month of the Military Child” and Wednesday’s “Purple Up” day honoring military service.

“This is a big military community,” said Christy Stowell, a member of the production team for “Disney on Ice Let’s Celebrate.” “We like to make sure we are connecting with the community, so we wanted to help them appreciate their military heroes.”

The youngsters came to the arena thinking they were preparing crafts for their parents and taking them home to them (While many of those parents have been deployed at some point, all are currently at home). But as the children worked on their projects to a backdrop of Disney songs and surrounded by purple balloons, their parents were ushered into the specially designated room at the arena along with Mickey.

Each child also received a purple camo hero cape from their military parent.

Five-year-old Mollie Pearson, whose father David Pearson is a weapons loader at McEntire Air Force Base, was among those offering and receiving special greetings Wednesday. Mollie’s mother, Liz Pearson, said the evening provided a special way to help her daughter honor her father’s service and love.

“I think it’s great,” Pearson said. “Just to give something to her daddy, she was excited about being able to make something for him.”

Ivey Hatfield, of the National Guard’s Family Program office, also praised the Disney production staff for coming alongside the youngsters and helping them honor their parents.

“It’s just great to see their support for our little heroes,” Hatfield said, noting that military children often share the burden of their parents’ service. “They are the ones who are missing holidays and missing birthdays, so it’s nice to see an outpouring of support,” she said.

The children and their heroes will receive an added treat this weekend. All have been given tickets to the opening night of the Disney On Ice show.

If you go

“Disney On Ice: Let’s Celebrate!”

DAYS/TIMES: 7 p.m. Thursday; 10:30 a.m. and 7 p.m. Friday; 2 and 6 p.m. Saturday; 2 p.m. Sunday

WHERE: Colonial Life Arena, 801 Lincoln St., Columbia

TICKETS: $15-$47. Available at the Colonial Life Arena box office, Play It Again Sports (Harbison) or online at LMCtix.com.

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