Iowa State University Extension, Cherokee County 4-H, and the Treptow Legion Post 230 Legion Auxiliary are highlighting the need to reach out to military kids this summer by supporting local families through Operation Military Kids.
The organizations are working together to match children of National Guard or Reserve Families with local opportunities. The Operation Military Kids local project is kicking off their campaign by recognizing the first sponsored family, Chris and Mandy Lillefloren, at the Cherokee Chamber Coffee on Friday starting at 9:30 a.m. at the ISU Extension office. Their children, Brooke and Brody, will be provided Operation Military Kids Hero Backpacks. The special backpacks are loaded with items like books, puppets and even a disposable camera.
Hero Packs are OMK knapsacks filled with a variety of items from the OMK Partner Agencies, which are given to suddenly military youth as a thanks for the sacrifices that they make while their parents are deployed.
Hero Packs contain a variety of items intended to provide children with fun activities and ways to stay connected to their deployed parents. In addition, information is provided to parents regarding local support programs for children and families.
Donations of materials for Hero Packs can also be made to the State's Iowa OMK Team. Items such as stationary, stamps, journals and disposable cameras are always welcome.
Operation: Military Kids is a national initiative involving 20 states with high levels of National Guard and Reserve Deployment Program and are being designed for these "suddenly military" youth to help them find positive ways to cope with the stress of their parents' deployment.
The Army recognizes the isolation that children of military reservists often feel and is working with ISU Extension 4-H Youth Development Program, with its statewide reach, to connect more of the families through local 4-H community clubs, summer camps, computer labs and special opportunities.
In Iowa, children of military families have formed a speakers bureau in which they go to gatherings around the state and talk to their counterparts, sharing emotions, and tips for coping. Potluck dinners and ice cream socials are used to link military families.
"The children of National Guard or Reserve Soldiers can really have their world turned upside down when a parent deploys," said M.A. Lucas, director of Army Child and Youth Services at CFSC. "They face new stresses and responsibilities at home in helping the remaining parent, and because they aren't living in a military community may not have peers who can relate to their new situation."
To find out more about Operation Military Kids go to the web site: www.usda-army-ydp.org/omk/pilot/pilots.h... or contact the Cherokee County Extension Office at 225-6196 or www.extension.iastate.edu/cherokee/.