Last updated on April 21, 2014 at 1:20 EDT

Five Children Honored as “Our Military Kids of the Year”

April 19, 2012

Top Military and Congressional Leaders Applaud National Guard and Reserve Children

WASHINGTON, April 19, 2012 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — In observance of the Month of the Military Child, the national nonprofit organization Our Military Kids hosted its third annual “Celebration of Our Military Kids’ Star Power” event today at the U.S. Navy Memorial in Washington, DC. The organization recognized five Our Military Kids of the Year, and one Military Family of the Year who received the surprise of a lifetime when their service member returned early from his deployment.

The winners honored at today’s event previously received grants from Our Military Kids to participate in various activities, and showcased their talents for the country’s top military officials and Members of Congress. In addition to the children’s performances, the event also included remarks from F.P. Santangelo, color analyst at the Mid-Atlantic Sports Network for the Washington Nationals, and
Lt. Gen. William E. Ingram, Jr., Director of the Army National Guard.

“It’s a time we set aside to pay special tribute to our service members’ children for what they do every day and the essential support they give to our Nation. All too often their stories go untold and their sacrifices unnoticed. These children are America’s invisible patriots,” said Lt. Gen. Ingram. “No matter what uniform we wear, we share the belief that taking care of military families is a duty, a privilege, and everyone’s responsibility. And, as our forces draw down in Iraq and Afghanistan, this responsibility to resilient families and children will not end.”

Our Military Kids selected the five honorees through a contest among its grant recipients, which required an essay highlighting the child’s community service and family commitment, along with a video of the child participating in the activity for which they received a grant. The winners have diverse backgrounds, but all have demonstrated leadership in their schools and communities.

  • Anya Alexis Wilkie, 7, of Brighton, Ill., received a grant to attend violin camp. She performs multiple times a month at a local nursing home for senior citizens. Anya Alexis is also a volunteer violinist at her local chamber orchestra. She also studies and speaks three languages.
  • Jonathan Harrell, 10, of Charleston, W.Va., received a grant to continue piano lessons. He has an extraordinary gift for music, having quickly mastered the theme song to Charlie Brown. Jonathan is also a Boy Scout and volunteers his time as a safety patrol officer and tutor at his school.
  • Decorda Owens, 13, of Starkville, Miss., received a grant to take hip-hop dance classes. Dance is his passion in life, and the grant allowed Decorda to receive formal training. When not dancing, he volunteers with his church and fills his father’s shoes as man of the house in his absence.
  • Baleigh Wheeler, 15, of Greenville, Va., received a grant to continue taking dance classes. She travels up and down the East Coast for competitions. Outside of dance, Baleigh volunteers for the American Heart Association, at Family Readiness Group events, and as a camp counselor.
  • Sydney Schmidt, 16 of Hayfield, Minn., received a grant for a high school band trip to Disney World. She has been playing the flute for years, and the trip was the opportunity of a lifetime. Sydney is also involved with theater, cross country, student government, and the Big Sisters Program.

In addition to these five children, Our Military Kids honored the Karnbach family of Hollywood, Md. as the Our Military Kids Family of the Year. Mrs. Karnbach nominated both children, and after reading their nominations, the Our Military Kids team determined the entire family was worthy of recognition.

With the help of Admiral Jonathan Greenert, Chief of Naval Operations, and Admiral Dirk Debbink, Chief of the Navy Reserve, Petty Officer Christopher Karnbach returned two weeks early from his deployment to Cuba with the Navy Reserve, surprising his wife, Anne Marie, and their children, Christopher, 9, and Abigail, 7, at today’s event.

Both of the Karnbach children received grants for martial arts, working hard to learn new skills they can show their dad. Aside from tae kwon do, Christopher and Abigail are involved with Cub Scouts and Brownies where their mother serves as the assistant troop leader for Cub Scouts and Brownie troop leader. In their school, Christopher plays the violin and helped start a support group for military children, while Abigail’s hard work has allowed her to read above grade level.

Target sponsored “A Celebration of Our Military Kids’ Star Power” and is a major corporate supporter of Our Military Kids. In addition to generous monetary contributions, Target designed and produced award packets that children receive along with their grants. The packets reinforce the significant contributions both children and their military parents make while serving this country.

“Without the support received on a daily basis from the National Guard Bureau and the private sector, Our Military Kids would not be able to support thousands of our littlest warriors each year,” said Linda Davidson, Executive Director of Our Military Kids. “The generosity of our donors who recognize the sacrifices made by these children allow this grant program to succeed in keeping our geographically dispersed military kids happy and healthy.”

In addition to its program for National Guard and Reserve families, Our Military Kids also provides grants to children of Fallen and Wounded Warriors of all branches of the military to help children adjust to the permanent absence of a parent or the challenges of a parent recovering from severe injury at home.

To date, Our Military Kids has provided more than 37,000 grants, totaling nearly $15 million.

About Our Military Kids
Our Military Kids was founded in 2004 to support children ages three to 18 of National Guard and Reserve families that often become financially stretched during a deployment. The organization provides $500 grants for activities such as sports, fine arts, and tutoring programs that nurture and sustain children while a parent is serving our country overseas. Additionally, the program is available to children of Fallen and Wounded Warriors of all branches of the military. Our Military Kids is funded by corporations, foundations, private donors, and government grants. For more information, please visit www.ourmilitarykids.org.

Media Contact: Greg O’Brien
Our Military Kids
(703) 731-1072

SOURCE Our Military Kids

Source: PR Newswire