Recipients Announced for 2012 Military Child of the Year® Award

Mar 08, 2012, 12:00 ET from Operation Homefront


Each Deserving Young Patriot Wins $5,000

SAN ANTONIO, March 8, 2012 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Operation Homefront today announced the five recipients of the 2012 Military Child of the Year® Award.  The national non-profit organization that provides emergency assistance to military families annually gives the award to an outstanding military child from each military branch of service – Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force, and Coast Guard.

(Logo: )

From a pool of more than 1,000 nominees, each award recipient was chosen by a committee including active duty military personnel, Family Readiness Support Assistants, teachers, military mothers, and community members.  The five awardees will receive $5,000 each and will be flown with a parent or guardian to Washington, D.C. for a special recognition gala on April 5, 2012.  The awards will be presented by senior leaders of each branch of service, and keynote speakers at the event will include Gen. Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and Medal of Honor recipient Sammy Davis.

"The sons and daughters of America's service members learn what patriotism is at a very young age," said Jim Knotts, President & CEO of Operation Homefront.  "Children in military families demonstrate leadership within their families and within their communities.  This is what the Military Child of the Year® Award honors."

Following are 2012 Military Child of the Year® award recipients.

Amelia McConnell, 17
Carlisle Barracks, PA

Like many military children, Amelia McConnell has had her share of challenges. The youngest of six children, Amelia has moved with her family nine times since her birth, she has adjusted quickly to new environments and friends, and her father has deployed to the front lines three times. It was 2006, however, when she and her family faced their greatest challenges. Soon after her father returned from Iraq, he was diagnosed with leukemia. After completing six months of treatments, including chemotherapy, the disease appeared to be in remission. He was redeployed to Iraq in 2007 and two years later, Amelia's only brother, Sgt. Andrew McConnell, was killed in Afghanistan. One year later, Amelia's father was deployed to Afghanistan, a month after the family moved to Pennsylvania from Germany.  When her father left for Afghanistan, Amelia said she made it a point to make life as easy for her mother. At her new school, Amelia became a member of the many National Honor Societies including Germany National Honor Society, and National Art Honor Society, where she served as Vice President.

Erika Booth, 16
Jacksonville, NC

Erika Booth loved to play softball. In fact, Erika was very active in athletics until she learned that a simple fall had life-threatening implications. Erika was recently diagnosed with lupus, an autoimmune disease that affects her blood, and is required to have painful monthly kidney checks. Among the handful of medications she takes every day to treat the disease is blood thinner, and because her blood clots easily, the pills can cause tremendous trauma to her and her family.  The loss of her favorite pastime is just Erika's smallest hurdle. She is a trusted primary caregiver for her 13-year-old autistic brother.  At school, Erika is ranked academically first in her class, is her Junior Class President, the vice president of her local Health Occupations Students of America (HOSA) chapter, and she volunteers as a mentor with the Drug Education for Youth program.  She also works with the LINKS children program where she works with other military children and adults to help them cope with the challenges of military life. Erika has also spent countless hours volunteering at local events for community organizations and has traveled abroad with the People to People Ambassador program.

James Nathaniel Richards, 9
Jamul, CA

At one time, James Nathaniel Richards' three brothers and father were deployed at the same time.  As a son and the youngest of six kids, James has seen a lot of the military life. To share his wisdom about being a military brat, he started a blog: James said he started the blog while his brothers and father were deployed to deal with the difficulty of their absence. There are currently 87 military kids around the country who follow James' blog.  In between football, soccer, and baseball practices, James heads up the anti-bully committee at his school which meets once a week to discuss ways to end bullying in the school, and James describes it as one of the most important things he does all week.  In the community, James volunteers at the USO and spent over 200 hours last year collecting toys for needy children for Christmas and wrapping hundreds of stockings to send to troops in Afghanistan. When parents arrived to pick out Christmas gifts for their children, James babysat the children so that each parent could more fully enjoy the season of giving.

Chelsea Rutherford, 17
Panama City, FL

This spring Chelsea Rutherford's mother probably will not be able to attend her high school graduation because duty may call her away from home, again!  Chelsea says she understands. With two parents in the military, multiple moves, and attendance at five different schools, Chelsea is used to the life of a military child and she tries every day to help other military children. An honor roll student with a 3.6 GPA, Chelsea currently serves as the vice president of the Student to Student Club, introducing military students to the campus and easing their transition. When Chelsea isn't studying for her advanced placement classes, or volunteering at her high school, she can be found working in the local community where she has clocked more than 179 hours volunteering for nonprofit organizations in 2011. This fall, Chelsea plans to use the skills honed through her membership in the Society of Leadership and Success, and as well as the National Society of High School Scholars, to attend her local community college.  There she plans to start working toward her teaching degree, which she hopes to finish at Florida State University.

Alena Deveau, 17
Fairfax, VA

Alena Deveau's family has always considered their Coast Guard life to be an adventure. As the family traversed the United States to their many assignments, they realized in a few short years they had visited 49 states.  They still hope to visit the last state of North Dakota. In her seventh grade year, however, she and her family faced a challenge that put that goal on hold, and put the family's mettle to the test. Her father, a non-smoker, was diagnosed with lung cancer and became dependent on chemotherapy. Surgeons removed part of his right lung.  Just a few months later, he was diagnosed with hip cancer. Surgeons replaced his hip within weeks, but then he was diagnosed with brain cancer. Her father, now medically retired, was hospitalized for nearly three months after the cancer moved to his brain. Alena's mother spent most of her time by his bedside, so Alena began to run the household and took care of her 15-year-old younger sister.  For several years, she has volunteered as an organizer of the local Veterans' Day dinner, bringing more of the military tradition and pomp back to the annual feast. While working with her father and his physical therapist, Alena became very interested in studying physical therapy.  She applied to eight universities, and hopes to attend Virginia Tech or James Madison University.

The United Technologies Corporation (UTC) is the presenting sponsor for the Military Child of the Year® Award.  UTC believes that successful businesses improve the human condition. UTC maintains the highest ethical, environmental and safety standards everywhere, and encourages and celebrates its employees' active roles in their communities.

About Operation Homefront:  Operation Homefront provides emergency financial and other assistance to the families of our service members and wounded warriors.   A national nonprofit, Operation Homefront leads more than 4,500 volunteers across 23 chapters and has met more than 590,000 needs since 2002.  A four-star rated charity by watchdog Charity Navigator, nationally, 94 percent of total revenue donated to Operation Homefront goes directly to support service members and their families.  For more information about Operation Homefront, please visit




SOURCE Operation Homefront