Updated: April 7, 2014 at 1:27 pm
With two young boys at home, a set of twins due at the end of May and an active-duty husband on his fourth tour to Afghanistan, 24-year-old Ashley Kopec has her hands full.
Spending a few hours Sunday opening presents, making new friends and feeling appreciated at a baby shower with 49 other expectant mothers was a great way to take a break, she said.
"I think it's wonderful to see this type of support for military families," Kopec said. "As a military spouse you learn very quickly that you have to be strong for your kids and to put their well-being before everything else. You try to make their lives fun and stable in a world full of instability."
Making diaper cakes, decorating onesies and raffling off a diaper genie were part of the fun for the 50 women who were celebrated Sunday at Operation Homefront Rocky Mountains baby shower.
Scores of expecting mothers and some who gave birth in recent weeks filled the event hall at the Hotel Elegante on South Circle for an event aimed at fostering the bonds of the military community and boosting the morale of military spouses.
"Having a baby is a life-changing experience and a huge expense," said Rocky Mountains chapter executive director Charlotte Merriam. "This is a way of making the moms-to-be feel appreciated and for us to thank them and their active-duty spouses for their service and sacrifice."
Operation Homefront is a national nonprofit organization whose main focus is to provide financial assistance for military veterans, wounded warriors and deployed families. The nonprofit uses grant funds to help cover rent, mortgage, car repairs, insurance, medical and other expenses for military personnel.
"Hopefully when there's an emergency and the active duty member of the family is deployed, you'll be able to call us and we can help get you through," Merriam said.
Expecting and new mothers received gift baskets and bags with baby items and entered raffles for donated gifts from the organization's sponsors, In between lunch and cupcakes, everyone competed to build the best diaper cake, topped with toys and ribbons.
First-time mother Whitney Crider held on to her 3-week-old daughter, Aubrey, as she slept swaddled against her chest. Crider, 20, said the baby shower was a great way to introduce brand-new moms to the services offered through the military for parents.
"It really helps to feel included, there's a lot more sense of family than I ever thought," Crider said. "And making new friends is always nice."
In the past year, Operation Homefront spent nearly $4 million in financial assistance to military service members and their families in need, with about 80 percent of the funds going to wounded warriors and their families, Merriam said.
Program manager Nina Nevins said more than 2,000 families received donated backpacks and school supplies.
"No matter where you're stationed, there's an operation homefront wherever you are," Merriam said.
"There's always help available, and we just want to make every member of the military family feel appreciated and let them know they're not alone."