Kits help children through deployment: Barkley students receive treats
December 17, 2010
- Shirley Chester, a guidance counselor at Barkley Elementary, was looking for ways to help the students cope with a parent deployed.
- Cleverly crafted deployment kits, filled with trinkets to provide comfort and sympathy to the children of Soldiers.
- By a stroke of luck, the Clarksvile USO had several hundred of the kits, ordered by another company and then forgotten.
- Each child received a deployment kit, with the exception of pre-K, due to choking hazards.
Nine-year-old Colbie Cornell is excited about Christmas. He's hoping to see an Xbox Kinect under his tree, along with a motorized Razor Scooter. While he is expecting to have a good Christmas, he also realizes that one special person will be notably absent.
"My dad has been in Afghanistan for almost a year now," said Cornell. "I usually get to talk to him every day, but I still miss him a lot."
Dariona Dash was fortunate to have her father home over the Thanksgiving holiday, but he will be back in Afghanistan when she and her Family head to Louisiana for Christmas.
Dariona and Colby are just two of many children at Barkley Elementary with a parent deployed to Afghanistan or Iraq.
Shirley Chester, a guidance counselor at Barkley, has been working hard to find ways to help the students cope with the anxiety of having a loved one overseas.
On her search, she discovered Trevor Romain, a children's self-help author and motivational speaker. Sympathetic to the emotional stress of parental deployment, Romain has partnered with the USO to tour military schools around the world.
In addition, his company has crafted clever deployment kits, filled with trinkets to provide comfort and sympathy to the children of Soldiers.
"I found out about these wonderful kits in May," said Chester, "and I had been searching for ways to get them to our students for months."
After many dead ends and sponsorship refusals, Chester got in touch with Woody Englander, chief executive officer of the Trevor Romain Company. Upon his suggestion, she contacted a temporary USO in Clarksville.
"I wasn't even aware there was a USO in Clarksville," said Chester.
In an amazing stroke of luck, the USO happened to have several hundred of the very kits she was looking for, ordered by another company and then forgotten.
Chester arranged for the kits to be picked up and immediately began distributing them to the children of Barkley Elementary.
Each kit contains a DVD of Romain's deployment-based animated film, "With You All the Way! Dealing With Deployment," along with a stuffed representation of Cuzzie, the film's main character.
There are also dog tags, a special deployment journal and a pack of post cards.
"We tell the kids that their mother and fathers love to receive things in their kids' handwriting," said Chester, "so the post cards are a perfect incentive."
"I love the postcards," said Dash. "I can write to my dad and draw him pictures. I've already filled most of them out."
Each child received a deployment kit, with the exception of pre-K, due to choking hazards. These little ones received a book and plush doll courtesy of Operation Give a Hug and the Family Readiness Group.
"The deployment kits have been a huge success at Barkley," said Chester. "Even the older kids, the 5th graders, were very excited to get them."
"When I opened my kit, I thought everything was amazing," said Cornell.
The children were even more excited to learn that Romain, the creator of the movie and deployment kits, will be visiting their school on Monday. Currently on a USO tour, Romain has plans to visit with all of the elementary schools at Fort Campbell.
"I can't wait to see him again," said Dash. "I met him last year, and I really like him. He's funny, and he's a great artist."
To learn more about Trevor Romain and his mission to help children, visit www.trevorromain.com.