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Viper West team brings good spirits to SLC hospital

(Left to right) Staff Sgt. William Griffith, Senior
Airmen Mark Vandevender and Kenneth Umeck,
with the Viper West demo team, speak to 150 kids
via a television link during a Bingo game March 15
at Primary Children?s Medical Center.

(Left to right) Staff Sgt. William Griffith, Senior Airmen Mark Vandevender and Kenneth Umeck, with the Viper West demo team, speak to 150 kids via a television link during a Bingo game March 15 at Primary Children?s Medical Center.

HILL AIR FORCE BASE, Utah -- Ear-to-ear grins can be seen on children's faces as three members of the Viper West team make their way through different hospital rooms at the Primary Children's Medical Center in Salt Lake City.

The team members visited the hospital to lead a scheduled game of Bingo and give the children coloring books and stickers March 15.

Their 30 minute drive to the hospital turned into a two hour crawl as the weather and traffic impeded their chance to get their on time for the game.

Their dedication to the community was apparent even after they were told they didn't have to come because of the drive.

"No way are we going back to base because we can't lead Bingo. They are expecting us," said Staff Sgt. Griffith,

"If we can bring joy to the kids and have a chance to make a difference in their lives, then the weather is not going to stop us," he said.

The members arrived at the hospital just before the game was over. Bingo was played through a television and the members were able to talk through a microphone to the 150 kids who were watching. This gave the kids a chance to stay in their rooms and call in a win winner if they played. The team also took some time to answer any requests from the kids and tell their jokes. "We had a chance to answer their calls and if they had a joke to tell, they could call in and we would relay it back to everyone watching," said Senior Airman Kenneth Umeck, an avionics specialist with Viper West. "It was fun to play with the kids and tell their jokes," he said.

They made their way through each room to have a better interaction with the kids. The team was able to relate with them and talk about the Air Force mission.

"I didn't want to leave. It is rewarding to be able to see the kids' faces light up," said Senior Airman Mark Vandevender, a dedicated crew chief with the team.

"To go out to the community and give something back is part of what I wanted to join the team for," he said.

Viper West is tasked to support Air Force recruiting programs while maintaining an ability to have community involvement during their season. They are able to perform air shows throughout the United States and around the world. The Viper West crew members are on the road March to November and are scheduled to perform at an air show in Chile at the end of this month.