When a parent is deployed, it is never easy for their children. However, it may be more of a shock for kids whose parent is a citizen soldier because deployment calls can come out of the blue. Fortunately, an organization, called Our Military Kids (OMK), is doing their best to support these children through a stressful time. OMK is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that offers grants to the children of deployed National Guard and Reserve service members. They also offer grants to the children of wounded warriors from all branches. These grants fund kids’ participation in activities that can help them cope with the stress of having a parent deployed overseas.
OMK was founded in 2004 and the first pilot program was held in Winchester, VA in 2005. The OMK history page explains, “Calls from deploying citizen soldiers were sometimes heart-breaking. Feeling the need to help more children cope with the challenges brought on by lengthy separations, we began covering families living in Maryland and the District of Columbia”. Over the years, the program expanded and it is now a national program that is supporting military kids all over the country. Since 2005, the organization has helped over 44,000 military children and donated over $22 million in grants.
To receive a grant, a child must be at least 5-years-old and no older than a high school senior. The parents’ deployment must also be 180+ days. However, for the Air Force Reserve and National Guard, it only has to be 120 days. Additionally, OMK says that “Within days of receiving applications from eligible families, the staff at the Our Military Kids office will send special “Top Secret” packets to children, thanking them for their service to our country”.
OMK helps military families fund their children’s athletic, fine arts, or tutoring programs. OMK funds programs like swimming, figure skating, engineering, coding, theater, dance, ACT/SAT prep, drivers ed, pageants, and more. That was just to name a few of the abundant list of programs that OMK helps children get involved in. For some children, these initial grants expose them to a life-long passion. For example, according to the article, “OMK Teen Surfs Towards Olympics,” by Judy McSpaden, Samantha Sibley received a grant 5 years ago and used it to learn how to surf. She chose to use her grant on a new skill that she’d never tried before. Now, Samantha is well on her way to competing in the 2020 Olympic games. She already has state and national titles for surfing.
If you think that you or your child may be eligible for an OMK grant, check out the website and apply today. There are more ways to get involved though. You can also donate to the organization and help a military kid pursue their dreams.