Military charity cuts benefits amid flood of applicants

A charity that helps children while their parents serve their country is sending out more checks than ever, but the amounts are getting smaller.

Our Military Kids, which gives the kids of deployed National Guard and Reserve service members and wounded warriors grants for extracurricular activities, has slashed monthly checks in half, to $250. Officials say there are just too many applicants to the program, which pays for music lessons, sports programs, tickets to events and other things that can help kids cope with the stress of a deployed parent.

“Success brings good news and challenges for Our Military Kids,” said Linda Davidson, executive director of OMK.  “Since the word has gotten out to families that Our Military Kids is an organization that can help provide impactful support for their children during challenging periods – overseas deployments and recovery from combat related injuries- applications to our grant program are up by more than 30 percent over last year.”

Donations have not kept pace with the increased applications, Davidson said, noting the nonprofit receives no government funding.

Navy Reservist Christian Heller, who was deployed overseas for a year, told Fox the aid from OMK has been invaluable to his family, especially his 6-year-old daughter.

“It was really exciting for my daughter to continue her piano lessons when I was away,” Heller said. “As a little girl she didn’t know what was going on, or when Daddy was coming home, but life was still going on,” Heller said. “These types of programs help the military community, especially the kids, because it impacts the kids’ stability. A simple thing like giving piano lessons to a child gives them additional support.  I felt like I wasn’t alone and my family wasn’t alone.”

OMK began in 2005, with a pilot program focused on a National Guard unit from Winchester, Va. It subsequently expanded to serve the entire state and eventually, the nation. The group now claims to have helped more than 44,000 children.

Davidson said her organization offers donors a way to pay back military families for their sacrifice.

“Every American has an opportunity to take care of our service men and women’s children while they serve overseas to protect our freedoms and our families, or while they heal from the visible and invisible wounds of war,” said Davidson. “We would be extremely grateful to have more Americans join us in this effort.”