Saturday, May 24, 2003

Mom and Dad abroad, gym crowd pitches in

Big party today for twins whose parents are overseas with military

By Andrea Uhde
The Cincinnati Enquirer

[IMAGE] Pam Covert has been the full-time caretaker for grandchildren Christopher and Katelyn Wilson since March.
(Ernest Coleman photo)
| ZOOM |
They spit. They shed tears over a string of beads. They don't like spinach. And they've become a symbol of patriotism for many in Cincinnati.

Christopher and Katelyn Wilson, twins from South Carolina who turn 1 today, haven't seen their parents, who serve in the Air Force, since March. Amanda Wilson is in Pakistan working with satellite communications, and Aaron Wilson has been in Saudi Arabia working as a jet engine mechanic.

So the twins have come to Ohio, where they're getting some special attention, including a red, white and blue birthday party today. It will be attended by about 100 people at the Cincinnati Gymnastics Academy in Fairfield.

Pam Covert, Amanda Wilson's mother, moved the twins from Shaw Air Force Base in South Carolina to her home in Medway, northeast of Dayton, when the Wilsons were deployed in March.

Workers and gymnasts at the academy heard about the twins and quickly began sending Covert anything from baby formula and money to clothes and toys. They also started filling a scrapbook with labels and pictures of things the twins like and don't like.

No one at the academy has actually met the twins.

"What we have done is adopted them in celebration, giving them a birthday with people who want to just say thanks," said Tina Morris, who has a daughter at the gymnastics center and is helping organize the party.

Aaron and Amanda Wilson
Covert was amazed with the help. "It's not like I couldn't afford to buy all this, it's that these people feel that this is their patriotic duty," she said.

Covert, 41, had only spent a couple of days with the twins before March.

"I haven't dealt with babies in a long time, so I was very nervous," she said.

Covert was on a cruise when she got word that both Amanda and Aaron were being sent out. Covert flew to South Carolina as soon as her ship docked and had almost a day to learn about the twins and their medical needs. They were born with respiratory syncytial virus, which brings on asthma.

Covert now juggles work, household responsibilities and infants.

She no longer works late into the evening, and she requires help from her boyfriend's daughter for babysitting.

There are no more plants in the living room, and one spare bedroom is filled with cribs.

"My living room is now a playground," Covert said.

The change has also been difficult for parents Amanda and Aaron Wilson. Covert, who has been videotaping the twins daily, said she tries not to get too excited about what the twins are up to when she talks to their parents.

"I try to downplay things to Amanda on the phone because it's hard," Covert said.

We're "just really trying to put together those pieces that Amanda and Aaron are missing while they're serving our country," Morris said.

Covert appreciates the help. "This group of people at Cincinnati Gymnastics Academy, it's amazing what they've done."


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