Top Military and Congressional Leaders Applaud National Guard and Reserve Children
WASHINGTON, April 14, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- In observance of the Month of the Military Child, four children were recognized today as "Our Military Kids of the Year" at the second annual "A Celebration of Our Military Kids' Star Power" event at the U.S. Navy Memorial in Washington, DC. The event comes as First Lady Michelle Obama and Second Lady Dr. Jill Biden announce the "Joining Forces" campaign, designed to honor and support America's military families.
The national nonprofit organization Our Military Kids provides grants to children of deployed National Guardsmen and Reservists, who face unique challenges while a parent is overseas. These service members and their families are geographically dispersed throughout the country, and often live far from military bases where they could access family support services.
The winners honored at today's event recently received grants to participate in extracurricular activities from Our Military Kids and showcased their talents for top military leaders and Members of Congress. In addition to the children's performances, the event also included remarks from Gen. Peter Pace USMC (Ret.), the 16th Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, along with Rep. Sanford Bishop (D-GA), the Co-Chairman of the Congressional Military Family Caucus.
"Our military families serve as well as anyone who has ever worn a uniform – and these military children have demonstrated amazing talent, resilience, and strength," said Gen. Pace, who also serves on Our Military Kids' Advisory Board. "Our Military Kids is proud to help them participate in sports and fine arts programs that they might otherwise miss out on while Mom or Dad is deployed. These grants make it possible to enjoy activities during a stressful time for the family, and they help our military kids understand that America really appreciates the service and sacrifices made by our military families."
Our Military Kids selected the four honorees through a contest among its grant recipients, which required an essay highlighting the child's community service, and a video of the child participating in the grant activity. The four winners have diverse backgrounds, but all have demonstrated leadership in their schools and communities.
- Keegan Neverett, 16, of Leesburg, Florida, received a grant to take guitar and vocal lessons. He performs at his church and at various events to raise money for charity. Keegan also volunteers to speak to students about healthy friendships, peer pressure, and drug awareness.
- Chris-Shanti Jackson, 15, of Jackson, Mississippi, received a grant to be on her school's cheerleading squad. She speaks to various groups about the importance of supporting military families. Additionally, she is involved in community theater and is an award-winning poet.
- Katherine Bensburg, 14, of Mahopac, New York, received a grant for her tenth year of dance classes. She has volunteered as a Girl Scout, and raised money for cystic fibrosis and cancer organizations. She is also the president of her school's National Junior Honor Society.
- Tristan Fissette, 10, of Elk Grove Village, Illinois, received a grant to pursue his black belt in karate, which he completed in less than three years. Outside of karate, Tristan volunteers with the group Feed My Starving Children and helps new students adjust to his school.
In addition to these four children, Our Military Kids honored the Liston family of West River, Maryland as the Our Military Kids Family of the Year. When Senior Master Sergeant William Liston deployed with the Air National Guard, his three children received grants for horseback riding lessons. In addition to William's deployment, their mother, Angela, underwent an unexpected hip replacement surgery. The grants allowed Ashley, seven, and twins Ryan and Emily, five, to focus on something positive during a stressful time.
"The sons and daughters of our Wounded Warriors, National Guard and Reserve troops go through a lot when a parent is deployed, but organizations like Our Military Kids help to ease the stress of wartime service," said Rep. Bishop. "By providing an outlet for these kids, whether it's on a baseball field or in an art studio, this organization is making a difference in communities across the country, and they deserve our support."
Ariel, Zoey, and Eli Englebert, stars of the nationally syndicated children's television show Ariel & Zoey (Eli, Too) opened up the program with the National Anthem and closed the event with a medley of patriotic songs that are part of the show. Footage from the event will air in the show's second season, which is scheduled to start in September.
Target sponsored "A Celebration of Our Military Kids' Star Power," and is a major supporter of Our Military Kids. In addition to generous monetary contributions, Target designed and produced award packets that children receive along with their grants. The packets reinforce the significant contributions both children and their military parents make while serving this country.
"Our Military Kids is extremely grateful for all of the support received on a daily basis from the National Guard Bureau, Capitol Hill, and the private sector," said Linda Davidson, Executive Director of Our Military Kids. "This grant program would not be successful without the generosity of our donors who recognize the sacrifices made by thousands of children each year."
In addition to its program for National Guard and Reserve families, Our Military Kids also provides grants to children of Wounded Warriors from all branches of the military to help children adjust to the challenges of a parent recovering from severe injury at home.
To date, Our Military Kids has provided more than 28,000 grants, totaling $11 million.
About Our Military Kids
Our Military Kids was founded in 2004 to support children ages three to 18 of National Guard and Reserve families that often become financially stretched during a deployment. The organization provides $500 grants for activities such as sports, fine arts, and tutoring programs that nurture and sustain children while a parent is serving our country overseas. Additionally, the program is available to children of Wounded Warriors in all branches of the military. Our Military Kids is funded by corporations, private donors, and government grants. For more information, please visit www.ourmilitarykids.org.
CONTACT: Greg O'Brien
Our Military Kids
SOURCE Our Military Kids