Please read this great story about me that was written by Johnathon Clinkscales and published in the The Enquirer-Gazette in Southern Maryland. I was excited to have two newspaper articles published about my giving holiday for veterans.
Cheverly boy gives back to homeless veterans, families during holidays
World War II, the Korean War, the Cold War, the Vietnam War, Grenada, Panama, Lebanon, Operation Enduring Freedom (Afghanistan), Operation Iraqi Freedom, Operation New Dawn — those are just some of the conflicts that a vast majority of veterans have served in, many of whom are homeless due to poverty, lack of support networks and dismal living conditions in overcrowded or substandard housing.
A large number of displaced and at-risk veterans live with lingering effects of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and substance abuse, which are compounded by a lack of family and social support networks. Veterans need a coordinated effort that provides secure housing, nutritional meals, basic physical health care, substance abuse care and aftercare, mental health counseling, personal development and empowerment, according to the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans.
Five-year-old Tyler Stallings, honorary CEO of Kid Time Enterprises LLC, wanted to create a way to give back to those veterans in need after seeing a YouTube video about homeless vets. The Cheverly boy, with the help of his mom, launched his own campaign called “Give Back to Veterans Day” — via www.gofundme.com/uxs2hbcs
— to help elderly and homeless veterans during Christmas.
“When my son was 4 years old, he saw a video on YouTube about homeless veterans,” said Stalling’s mother, Andrea Blackstone. “I was giving him a lesson about that and the sacrifices that they have made for the country. The first thing he said to me was, ‘Mom, why are they homeless? That’s not right.’ And he immediately wanted to do something to help them.”
In addition to raising money through his campaign and making requests in-person at local shopping centers, Stallings also donated some of the proceeds from his book, “Tyler Goes Around the World,” to help raise more than $1,000 and deliver 15 boxes of goods — including a new computer, hats, gloves, scarves, soap, shirts, undergarments, toothpaste/toothbrushes, deodorant, backpacks and thermals — on Dec. 19 to the Maryland Center for Veterans Education and Training Inc. (MCVET) in Baltimore.
Thanks to the support of organizations like Burgundy Wear in Laurel, Stallings also received and was able to donate hoodies and shirts for the veterans and their families.
“They [MCVET] work with homeless veterans and veterans who need assistance. Some live there, some drop in — they’re both women and men,” Blackstone said. “We thought that was a terrific place in terms of what they do and how much they help veterans from all around the United States, not just Baltimore. That is where he donated the majority of his items.”
Blackstone said raising money online was hard to do and the call to help collect items went unanswered. Lots of people ignored her son when he tried to talk to them about helping veterans. Others promised to help but never showed up, even after meetings were scheduled, she said.
But luckily for Stallings, Blackstone is teaching him how to deal with tough situations and unkind people at an early age. She said he is learning many lessons, especially how one small act of kindness can go a long way.
“[Tyler] also raised money on his own, from the book sales, to finance the purchase of a new laptop computer,” she said. “That was his goal. … To do something not just to give back to the veterans in need, but to give them a tool to help them to achieve a goal. So that’s why he, after speaking with me, selected a laptop — because that’s a tool that can be used in a job program to help a veteran secure employment and [conduct] job searches.”
For Blackstone, everyone has a purpose but may be called to do different things as not every journey will unfold the same. There is enough room for anyone who wants to participate in doing good deeds to take action and do it, she said.
“In addition to [donating items to MCVET], he decided to also give some special community awards to recognize veterans,” Blackstone said. “There was one particular person who we know and their dad is a retired veteran. They needed something personal and important. Tyler financed glasses for that individual. … He just wanted to say ‘thank you’ even if they weren’t homeless veterans, but maybe there was something that they needed or their families could benefit from.”
Both of Blackstone’s parents were active volunteers in different capacities when she was growing up. The values that she learned back then are what she is trying to pass on to her son now, she noted.
“He’s been taught not to forget elderly veterans, either, so that is another reason why he tries to do something,” Blackstone said. “Giving back is huge for us. Number one, because that’s what my parents instilled in me to do. It’s in me and I’ve passed it on to him. I think he just instinctively puts it out without me preaching about it. The fact that he is a child of a veteran, I’m a child of a veteran, he’s the grandson of a veteran, my grandfather was a veteran, his uncle was a veteran — so many people in my family are veterans. I thought it was a prime opportunity to show him that you don’t have to wait until you’re a certain age, if you believe in something, to take a stand and try to make a difference however you can do it.”
“It teaches [Tyler] good values, it gives him something to learn and hopefully inspires other people to get behind their children and help them pursue what their goal is,” Blackstone continued. “Sometimes little kids can have ideas, too.”
As for Stallings, he believes it is his job to spread as much goodness as he can. The Give Back to Veterans Day project not only taught him how important it is to help people in need, but also that kids can give back, too, he said.
“It feels good,” according to a statement received from Stallings in an email Friday. “It’s good to treat people nice. I’m supposed to give back and I just shouldn’t think of myself.”
Blackstone said the next steps for her son is to help him grow his business and continue to change the world one idea at a time.
“Just giving him more support and exposure and to help him continue his dreams, as a 5-year-old boy, to show other people that it is possible to make an impact,” said Blackstone. “We’ve started to discuss next steps for Give Back to Veterans Day because now it’s becoming not just a campaign, but a movement.”