An organization that supports children of the National Guard and reserves announced new activity grants through Veterans Day.
Our Military Kids (OMK), an organization that empowers military kids with sports, arts and other activities while their parents are deployed or recovering from severe injuries sustained in combat, celebrated 15 years of serving children of guardsmen, reservists, and wounded warriors in 2019. To date, it has awarded 69,000 grants totaling $28 million.
With quarantine restrictions in effect, however, virtually all in-person activities have been canceled, postponed or modified. Consequently, the number of OMK grant applications decreased, leading the organization to adapt criteria for the types of programs it funds.
“Since COVID-19 started, applications have dropped from 80 to 100 per week to maybe 20 to 30,” says Kara Dallman, OMK’s executive director. “But [these grants] are important; they’re an opportunity for National Guard and Reserve kids to be recognized and instill a sense of pride in being a military kid.”
As of mid-July, the charity expanded not only what it will now pay for (online enrichment activities) but for whom: children ages three through 18 and with parents activated stateside for at least 120 days on coronavirus-related or Southwest Border missions, not just outside the United States. Kids with deployed overseas parent(s), meanwhile, are now eligible for a second grant through Veterans Day.
The campaign, dubbed “Honor–120,” aims to give away a million dollars in 2020. In the first week alone, OMK staff saw applications skyrocket to 179 for a total of $52,000 in grant monies. Funding comes from corporations, foundations and individual donors.
“One thing we’re very proud of is that the child gets to choose the extracurricular activity, so it’s something to show our gratitude for their service as a military child and to help them grow their self-esteem, because they’re doing something they love,” says Dallman, a Navy veteran and military spouse.
Michelle Criqui, OMK’s social media manager, says the Honor-120 applications thus far are gearing up for a variety of online and (with-precautions) in-person classes and camps — everything from computer programming and tutoring to gymnastics and music. As the previous recipient of an OMK grant, she knows firsthand the value they provide to families of the reserve component.
“It’s a weight we can lift off these parents’ and kids’ shoulders — Lord knows they have a million other things to deal with right now!” she said. “But someone is out there looking out for you, helping you, lending a hand during this time.”