Imagine waking up one day as a young child. The person who used to greet you good morning with affection is no longer there. The person who makes boo-boos go away, who chases away monsters under the bed and who wraps their arms around you at the end of each day to say goodnight has left. There are no more ball games on the front lawn, no more trips for ice cream or Saturday morning cartoons. Mommy or Daddy is honoring their commitment to serve and protect the freedoms of our country, performing the duties of a hero. The most noble and respected job in our nation, besides perhaps, being a parent.
The life of a military child comes with unique challenges. One of those challenges for many military children, and maybe the most difficult to cope with, often includes saying goodbye to their parents during deployment.
Armed Services YMCA (ASYMCA) program, Operation Kid Comfort (OKC), offers handmade custom quilts featuring photos of the deployed parent for military children experiencing the pains of a loved one’s deployment. Each quilt is hand sewn by OKC volunteers and then presented or sent to military children.
“Few people outside of the military community know what it’s like to cope with the deployment of a parent or caregiver,” said Giselle Schneider, OKC Program Director. “It’s difficult for anyone to be away from their loved ones, but especially for young children. This program gives them something tangible to remind them of their loved one and fill that void.”
ASYMCA partner, Leidos, has donated volunteers to staff a day of service for creating OKC quilts at the Greensboro Station building in McLean. The day of service will take place on Saturday, June 14, with approximately 30 volunteers expected to lend their crafty hands.
“There is a significant level of sacrifice for a service member to be away from their family, and young children of service members are particularly impacted by their parent’s deployment,” said Mark Sopp, Leidos Chief Financial Officer and OKC volunteer. “Leidos is very proud to support programs like OKC that directly and tangibly assist families in coping with being separated from loved ones. This is truly a wonderful program that gives back so much to our service members and their families.”
Leidos has supported the OKC program since 2010, participating in several days of service benefiting OKC annually, donating both volunteers and monetary support.
“We couldn’t keep the OKC program running without our volunteers and the support of generous donors like Leidos,” said Giselle. “Our program is completely reliant on donations. We are so grateful for their support and cannot express our gratitude enough. These quilts mean so much to the families who receive them. Each of our volunteers and our donors is truly making a difference in the life of a military child.”
The day of service will include an OKC quilt presentation to the Johnson family. Shannon Johnson, whose husband, Major Donald Johnson is currently serving in Korea, will receive quilts for her two sons, ages 2 and 4.
Past OKC quilt recipients the Marquieth family, will also share their story about how receiving a quilt for their son, 4-year-old Ethan, impacted their family while his father, Ltc. Jason Marquieth was serving in Afghanistan.
“Any parent going through a deployment no matter if you the one going or the one staying is a challenging time especially for children. Our boy, Ethan, was just three when Jason left for Afghanistan in June 2013 for seven months. Ethan was super brave at the beginning but shortly after Jason left we began to have issues with anger, frustration and acting out which was completely out of character for him,” shared Ethan’s Mom, Jodi Marquieth.
“We searched to try to find some help and support for him to help him through this difficult time and that’s when we discovered Operation Kid Comfort through the Armed Services YMCA. Giselle Schneider and her staff were so sweet and comforting at a time that was so hard for us as parents. Jason felt guilty and helpless being so far away and I was trying everything I could to help Ethan through the emotions. Ethan was so sweet that he gave his dad his favorite bear to take with him to Afghanistan so he had someone to keep him company so the thought of a quilt from Daddy to keep Ethan warm and safe was a great gift in return. The volunteers who made Ethan’s quilt, did an absolutely amazing job making the most beautiful and touching quilt. Ethan still uses it every day and it was the first thing that he showed his dad the day he returned.”
If you or your company is interested in supporting the OKC program please contact Giselle Schneider, OKC Program Director at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the OKC page for more information http://bit.ly/1oxxujX.