HAMPTON, Va. — Nearly two-thirds of surveyed children experienced at least one symptom of psychological stress, according to the latest data from Our Military Kids.
The nonprofit organization offers grants up to $300 for children ages 3 to 18. They’re eligible if their parents are deployed with the National Guard, deployed with the Reserve or recovering from a severe injury in a post 9/11 mission overseas.
13News Now found out the program is changing lives across the country and right here in Hampton Roads.
The McWhirters in Hampton toughed out a rollercoaster year in 2020. Jonathon was deployed with the Air National Guard. He left in March and then had to come back given the onset of the pandemic.
“Turned around, went out in June of 2020 and deployed till about mid-to-end of October," he said.
During Jonathon’s deployment in Qatar, his wife, Amanda, was left at home with their children Wyatt and Breken.
“Their whole world just flipped upside down," said Amanda. "For little kids, that's really difficult to try and navigate with everything else."
Then, the energetic duo found an outlet in gymnastics.
“It gave them something to look forward to and made the process a lot easier while they waited," said Amanda.
Wyatt and Breken said going to gymnastics makes them happy and excited. It's a newfound passion they're continuing to this day.
They were able to get up to five months of gymnastics covered, thanks to a grant from Our Military Kids.
“You can be as creative as you want," said Michelle Criqui, the marketing and communications manager with Our Military Kids. "The goal is to really let the child choose something that will help them gain skills, gain confidence and relieve some of that stress while a parent is deployed or in recovery.”
The national nonprofit lets eligible children get involved with any extra-curricular activity. That could be anything with sports, arts or tutoring.
“They are building community. They are making friends. They are finding mentors in their activities and then, the really cool thing is that it impacts the family at large," said Kara Dallman, the nonprofit's executive director. “It’s a simple formula that really impacts the whole family during a difficult time.
More than 90 percent of families the organization surveyed in 2020 saw improvement in the overall family’s well-being and the service member’s morale.
Our Military Kids has given out roughly $28 million dollars in grants over the last 16 years.
TO FIND OUT IF YOU'RE ELIGIBLE OR TO APPLY: Click here