Since 2006, 298 Connecticut military children have received grants to pay for extracurricular activities while their parents were deployed. The money was used for activities such as baseball and basketball programs, music lessons, school trips and tutoring.
The Connecticut grants totaled about $125,000, out of $13 million awarded to some 32,000 children across the country.
Linda M. Davidson, executive director of Our Military Kids, the national organization that distributes the money, is encouraging more military families from Connecticut to apply. The grant is available to children of deployed National Guard and Reserve members, as well as children of Wounded and Fallen Warriors in the Guard, Reserves or active duty. Davidson said all eligible families who apply for the assistance, receive it, and there are no income requirements.
She explained that children of National Guard and Reserve members often live large distances from military bases, where there are usually activities and support services for families of active duty military. In addition, their deployed parents usually lose the incomes from their civilian jobs while they are deployed.
Davidson, co-founder of Our Military Kids, said that the purpose of the group is to give children who are often stressed by their parents’ absences the opportunity to participate in programs that keep them busy, help them grow and learn, and offer distractions from their problems. The result has been “a positive impact on their well being,” she said, adding that “it helps the parent who is home with them and eases the mind of the service member overseas” who knows the child is active and busy.
The money is sent directly to the organization or individual providing the activity, such as sports, fine arts, chess, camps, and academic tutoring.
Davidson said she came up with the idea for Our Military Kids when she was setting up a nonprofit’s webpage for Guard and Reserve families. She said when she spoke to people whose spouses were deployed, their difficulties usually centered around their children. They told her that their children often struggled emotionally with “having a parent away in a war zone” while they, as parents had to learn to cope with being the sole caregiver for months at a time.
The organization receives funding from both private donations and the federal government, mainly the Army National Guard. Until last May, children could receive more than one grant, which meant that their activities could be paid for during a 12-month deployment. But, federal funding cuts and the expiration of a generous donation led to a decision to limit grants to one per child, Davidson said. The current grants pay for six months of an activity, she said. (The only exception is the Wounded Warrior program which is funded by the Bob Woodward Foundation and stipulates funding of more than one grant per child, she said.)
Military families interested in applying for a grant and people interested in donating to the organization should go to its website: www.ourmilitarykids.org for information on how to do so.