A little more than four months ago, Blair Gahley shipped out with other members of the 144th Evacuation Hospital as part of Operation Desert Storm.

Three days later, his daughter Christy was born."It's been hard," said Cheryl, his wife and a mother of nine children.

Utah businesses did their part Saturday to make life a little easier on the families who were left behind. Project Homefront - a smorgasbord of food, games and free activities - kicked off Saturday at the Salt Palace for family members of those serving in Operation Desert Storm.

Thousands of family members responded, each sharing in common the fact that a loved one was far away. For some, like Jacob Ferguson of Bountiful, that meant making new friends.

For others, that meant romping with a clown, trying their luck at a round of bingo or decorating cookies.

"It's fun for the kids. It's been hardest on them," Cheryl Gahley said. "If the kids are having fun, then the parents feel good."

"This really is amazing," added Renae Ferguson, whose husband also serves with the 144th Evacuation Hospital. "It's more than anyone ever thought it would be."

Principal sponsors of the event were Questar Corp., Intermountain Health Care, United Way of the Greater Salt Lake Area, and the Salt Palace. Other businesses offered free products, services, financing and counseling services.

U.S. Sen. Jake Garn, R-Utah, and Reps. Wayne Owens and Bill Orton, D-Utah, along with military and political dignitaries, were scheduled to make appearances.

"We wanted to go beyond the yellow ribbons and verbal expressions in supporting the troops and their families during this difficult period," said Jan Bates, community relations coordinator for Questar.

In addition to honoring those who served in the Middle East, there is a need to recognize the serious financial and personal disruptions that have occurred in the lives of those who left home to serve, she said.

And for most, the waiting for loved ones to return goes on.

It may be two or three more months before Blair Gahley returns home. "We're hoping May," said son, Chad. "He told us he'd bring us a camel for our birthdays."