Family Matters Blog: Grants help kids stay active
WASHINGTON, May 24, 2012 – When Decorda Owens’ father deployed to Afghanistan last year with the Mississippi Army National Guard, the 13-year-old stepped up to take care of the family yard work and help his mother with his three younger sisters.
Like so many children of Guard and Reserve members, Decorda didn’t have the support of a military base where he lives in Starkville, Miss., yet he’d assumed a lot of stress and responsibility. The shining light for Decorda was a grant from the Our Military Kids nonprofit group to pursue his passion for hip-hop dancing.
As summer approaches and families search for camps, activities and possibly tutors to get the kids through those long three months, they should know about Our Military Kids. The organization, which began in 2004, awarded 9,150 grants worth $3.75 million last year. The grants are reserved for children of deployed National Guard and Reserve members, as well as children of service members severely wounded in Afghanistan or Iraq, whether they are active, Guard, Reserve, or retired. Families may receive up to $500 per child.
Decorda and four other children of National Guard and Reserve members traveled to Washington for an April 19 event to showcase how they’ve used Our Military Kids grants while their parent was deployed. The children, all honored as Our Military Kids of the Year for their high achievement, danced and performed various musical instruments before a packed auditorium at the Naval Heritage Center as proof of the nonprofit’s good investment.
The organization even appealed to top Navy leadership to cut short the deployment of Petty Officer Christopher Karnbach, a Navy reservist deployed to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, a couple weeks early so he could surprise his family and join them on stage as Our Military Kids’ Military Family of the Year. They agreed, and Karnbach had an emotional reunion with his wife, Anne Marie; son, Christopher, and daughter, Abigail, both of whom demonstrated that they’ve learned to break boards with tae kwon do kicks from lessons provided by the grants.
“It’s been a great opportunity for my children and I’m sure for everybody else’s to give them something to think about besides having a deployed parent,” Karnbach said of the grant money the couple’s two children received to take tae kwon do lessons.
The military’s top leaders frequently tout the importance of public-private partnerships to support military families and Our Military Kids, supported by public and corporate money, is a good example.