- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
In recognition of Armed Forces Day, Melwood Recreation Center in Nanjemoy opened its campus Saturday to active duty military, veterans and their families to enjoy the center’s recreational amenities.
Military members and their families could choose to swim, go horseback riding, go canoeing, pot plants with colorful sand, go on the rock climbing wall and get lunch from the grill free of charge.
Jonathon Rondeau, chief program officer at Melwood, said that the event, in its first year, came about after the staff and board members at the recreation center felt they could hold the Armed Forces Day event as an outreach and benefit the military.
“It’s a way for us to be able to thank our veterans and active-duty members,” Rondeau said.
Melwood, a nonprofit which supports people with disabilities in the Washington, D.C., area with jobs and opportunities, also has an employment program for veterans, Rondeau said.
Military members expressed thanks to the recreation center.
“I think this is great that an organization like this can open up their doors to the recreation opportunities available. It makes me proud to be an American,” said Chuck Long, who is stationed at Naval Support Facility, Indian Head with the U.S. Marine Corps.
Yoli Ortiz, who is married to Jason Ortiz, stationed with the U.S. Navy at the Indian Head base said, “It’s really nice. You really feel the appreciation.”
“We’re very thankful. It’s nice they could do that so we can enjoy a day of activities. My boys got a chance to ride the horses,” said Mark Delgado, who lives in Waldorf but is stationed at the Indian Head base with the Marine Corps.
Delgado’s two sons are Joshua, 4, and Gabriel, 1. His wife, Dajia Delgado, also attended the event.
Mark Delgado said that Joshua had been wanting to pet a horse, which he got to do Saturday.
Military members and their families could choose from three horses to ride.
Guests got to create their own terrariums with colorful sands, soil and spider plants.
“It’s really cool and I think it is really creative. It’s like a waterfall,” referring to the colorful sands that participants could put in their terrarium, Shawntasia Bishop, 11, who lives in Waldorf, said of the project.
Her mother, Waldorf resident Shantell Bishop, said, “I think it is awesome. We wouldn’t be able to do this as a family if we had to pay for it.”
Her husband, Donte Bishop, serves with the U.S. Air Force at Joint Base Andrews in Camp Springs and called the event “absolutely great.”
“We couldn’t ask for a more perfect day,” Donte Bishop said.
Melwood offers horticulture programs at its headquarters in Upper Marlboro, said Sheila Gallagher, who is the manager of horticultural programs.
Service members and their families also could pet Sunny the Bunny, the center’s large, orange-haired pet rabbit.
Bryans Road resident Richard Stutz, who served in the U.S. Air Force for 23 years with the Explosive Ordnance Disposal unit at Indian Head, brought two of his grandchildren along, Hunter Bryant, 9, and Chandler Jabara, 5.
Hunter and Chandler played with Sunny, chasing the bunny around and petting him.
Lois Stutz, Richard Stutz’s wife, called Saturday’s event, “good clean fun.”
“I think that it was a good idea,” Richard Stutz said.
Stutz said he signed up Hunter and Chandler for Camp Accomplish, a summer camp at the recreation center that includes children both with and without disabilities that the center holds every year.
The recreation center also held a raffle for the families so that one lucky child could attend Camp Accomplish for a week.
Others Saturday enjoyed cooling off on a hot day at the center’s swimming pool.
Thomas Buday, who is stationed at the Indian Head base with the Marine Corps, came with his son, Myles, 4.
“We’ve had a lot of fun,” Thomas Buday said, noting the center’s unique offerings of horseback riding, canoeing and nature trails.
“The pool is nice, too. Other pools aren’t open,” Buday said.
Ben Ambrose, his wife, Kristin Ambrose, and their son, Jaxon, 15 months, also came by the pool to cool off.
Ben Ambrose, who serves with the Marine Corps at Indian Head, said he appreciated the center’s staff for coming out to put on the event and offering their services for free to service members and their families.
Ambrose said that Indian Head NSF is not like Camp Pendleton in Oceanside, Calif., or Camp LeJeune in Jacksonville, N.C., where there are “all kinds of things” on the base.
“Here you have to rely on the community’s activities.”
Melwood cooked cheeseburgers, hamburgers and hot dogs for the service members and their families, and drove an “Ice Cream Truck,” technically a golf cart, handing out red, white and blue popsicles to visitors who wanted them.
The Bledsoe family of Waldorf and many other families went canoeing on the center’s pond.
Justin Bledsoe, who serves with the U.S. Navy at Joint Base Andrews, said the event was great.
“It was nice to give a kind gesture to the military. It’s appreciated from the military,” Bledsoe said.
Rondeau said the recreation center intends to make the Armed Forces Day event an annual affair.