Non-profit gives grants to military families for kids’ activities while parent is deployed

‘Our Military Kids’ says participation in these activities helps military children cope with stress and build self-confidence during an otherwise difficult time in their lives.
Published: Jul. 1, 2021 at 3:58 PM EDT
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CONCORD, N.C. (WBTV) - A non-profit is helping military families in North Carolina get their kids into activities while their parents are deployed on active duty.

Our Military Kids supports military children (ages 3 - 18) by funding sports, arts, and other extracurricular activities while a parent is deployed overseas with the National Guard, deployed with the Reserve, or recovering from severe injuries sustained in a post-9/11 overseas mission.

The organization says participation in these activities helps military children cope with stress and build self-confidence during an otherwise difficult time in their lives. It’s also a financial help for the families, who are now having to handle child care with one less parent. There’s also often a pay gap between civilian roles and national guard roles, which could mean less income coming to the families during deployment.

“In January, he left to go to Saudi Arabia, he was deployed for a year,” said Julia Suggs, who lives in Concord with her two boys, ages 4 and 6.

Suggs spent most of 2020 juggling the balance of two kids with only one parent at home, while her husband was in Saudi Arabia.

“The kids are definitely most affected by deployments. There are resources out there and as long as you take advantage of them, keep your chin up, they feed off of your energy,” she said.

This is her 5th deployment she’s gone through, but only the second for her boys.

The nonprofit, Our Military Kids, says nearly two-thirds of military children are impacted by their parents’ deployment. The most common symptoms are depression and acting out, according to a survey they did of military kids.

“The kids would video call with Dad every day, sometime for like 4 hours. And I’d like we have to go even though we’re still having fun with dad,” Suggs said.

To help kids while their parents are deployed, Our Military Kids, gives grants to families to put their kids into extracurriculars, like gymnastics, which is what the Suggs boys chose.

Other families have done martial arts, cheerleading and surfing, just to name a few.

Our Military Kids says getting into activities like this gives kids a sense of confidence and another community to turn to in a stressful time in their lives. Receiving the grant also shows that their sacrifice as a child of a service member is being recognized.

“At first they didn’t want to walk on the balance beam unless they were holding a coaches hand,” said Suggs. “Now they’re doing rolls on the balance beam. It’s amazing to see their confidence soar.”

Suggs said another benefit is the financial part of the program. She says her boys’ classes were paid for in full because of the grant. She says that’s a huge help while her husband is deployed.

“Deployments are tough because we still have to run a whole household and he still has to buy what he needs overseas. So the grant really helped us with finances,” she said.

But the biggest thing, the program serves as a reminder for all military families that participate that their sacrifice is appreciated to.

“The families are also serving; the kids are the ones who are most affected by the deployment so they specifically help the kids with the activity grants. It’s very sweet of them. There are good people out there,” she said.

A survey done by Our Military Kids said 85% of kids who received grant saw an improvement in their mental health. Other research showed it also helped kids in school.

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