Families at RAF Linton-On-Ouse enjoyed a range of special activities on 13 October to celebrate the opening of new Airplay Parks: state-of-the-art play areas for young people living on or around the station.
The Airplay Parks are part of the RAF Benevolent Fund’s national £24million Airplay programme for children and young people in RAF families, which is also funding trained Airplay youth support workers to support RAF staff at the station.
The new Airplay Parks were opened by Bob Kemp, Regional Director for the RAF Benevolent Fund, Station Commander Group Captain Terry Jones, and the High Sherriff of North Yorkshire, Mrs Alexandra Holford.
Group Captain Jones said: "The new Airplay Parks are a huge boost to the way we support our families, especially those where servicemen and women are deployed.
"Even before the official opening all of the new facilities have been ringing to the sound of laughter of children delighted with the new facilities. We are extremely grateful to the RAF Benevolent Fund for its generosity and support to RAF families."
Bob Kemp said he was proud to open the new play areas: "RAF children face unique challenges. Parents may deploy overseas at short notice for extended periods, sometimes to war zones. Families move around the country as operations demand, often to stations in isolated, rural locations where children must make new friends and start at new schools.
"It is not always easy, and can put strain on the family unit. That’s why the RAF Benevolent Fund has developed the Airplay programme.
"By giving young people access to state-of-the-art facilities and organised, safe activities, we can take some of the pressure off RAF parents – at home and on the front line."
Fred Hutchinson, Community Development Officer at the station said:
"The facilities which Airplay provides are a great addition to station, while our Airplay youth worker has helped me offer more activities for young people locally. Airplay is making a big difference to families here."
Squadron Leader Angela Unsworth is currently serving at RAF Linton-On-Ouse, and has two boys aged six and eight. Her husband is serving in the British Army.
She said: "Airplay really does help us a lot as a family. When you are serving and married to a serving person you need all the support you can get to keep your children happy and occupied.
"Airplay gives young people access to organised activities that capture their interest and help them learn. Combined with the new play parks Airplay is a fantastic help."
RAF personnel used to organise activities for young people on stations, but due to increased operational commitments, staff have less capacity to contribute to this important work.
Airplay youth support (delivered in partnership with national charity 4Children) helps fill the gap, giving RAF Community Support teams the additional trained support they need. The station's Airplay Parks will also give children easy access to state-of-the-art play and games facilities.
Some 80 Airplay youth support workers are now in position at RAF stations across the country, with over 1900 children and young people accessing the services they helped deliver in the last year. Over 40 new Airplay Parks have been constructed, with many more to come over the coming year.
Finally, over £13 million has already been spent constructing Airplay childcare centres at 27 RAF stations, which provided 1800 places for children aged 0-5 last year.
Charles Ellis, Deputy Chief Executive of 4Children said: "It is great that so many RAF families were able to join in and celebrate Airplay at RAF Linton-On-Ouse.
"It is clear to me that the RAFBF’s Airplay programme is vital to the RAF family and we're delighted that Airplay youth support workers are working so well with RAF Community Development staff across the country.
"I look forward to seeing our working partnership grow and prosper in the coming months."