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Tots Steal the Show at Opening of Amphib Base Child Center

The $10 million center, officially open since December, began construction in 2010.

It's a truism in Hollywood: Watch out for animals and kids. They WILL steal your scene.

Sonaja Hall and Gage Lawlor did just that Wednesday at the grand opening of the Child Development Center at the Naval Amphibious Base, adding life and vibrance to the standard ribbon-cutting that accompanies such ceremonies.

Capt. Yancy Lindsey, commander of Naval Base Coronado, positioned the tots – Sonaja is 3 and Gage, 4 – only to have them cut the ribbon straight away. Large scissors, after all, are for snipping, not for holding while waiting for adults to pose.

Sonaja then giggled with delight when Lindsey clipped off small pieces of the red ribbon for her and Gage, and promptly tore hers in half to present a share to her mother, Sonya Dewberry.

The $10 million center technically has been open since December, but Lindsey and Rear Admiral Garry Bonelli, deputy commander of Naval Special Warfare Command, turned out for the opening, along with city Councilman Mike Woiwode and Coronado schools Superintendent Jeffrey Felix.

Until last year, the amphib base had been without a childcare center for nearly 10 years, as Naval Base Coronado worked to upgrade badly dated facilities. A new center opened at North Island Naval Air Station in 2010, and another was expanded.

The amphib base center boasts space for 112 kids, and is nearly at 90 percent capacity. Space only remains in the toddler category – all slots for infants, pre-toddlers and pre-schoolers are taken.

The center is not just open to children of Coronado Navy personnel, but to all service members, said director Maureen Richmond. It boasts a staff of 42, and Lindsey said its construction shows the Navy is dedicated to “the importance of our families and more importantly of our nation's future.”

Gage's mother, Erin Lawlor, who works at Naval Base San Diego, has another child at the center, Ashlynn, 8 months. She zips up the Silver Strand from her Chula Vista home, drops off her kids, then takes the bridge to work.

She's also happy Gage gets to see other mommies and daddies in uniform and teachers who are married to servicemen.

“It's wonderful,” she said.

The amphib ceremony marked the second local Navy ribbon cutting this week. The .

The housing is for single sailors back from deployment on Coronado-based ships.

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