Operation Kid Comfort provides Fort Bragg children with link to deployed parent
January 28, 2011
FORT BRAGG, N.C. - Military life isn't easy. It's hard on the Soldier, it's hard on the Soldier's parents and it's hard on the spouse at home alone during the temporary duty assignments and overseas deployments. But, perhaps the people that the life of a Soldier is most difficult on are the sons and daughters of our servicemembers.
A military child's first steps, first birthday, first day of school and first lost tooth, along with other key moments, are often missed by their deployed mom or dad. While there's no way to give the child back that time with their parents, the Armed Services YMCA's Operation Kid Comfort gives each child of a deployed, active-duty servicemember a quilt or pillow featuring photos of their Family to help comfort the child.
Children ages 5 and under with a deployed parent receive a free, handcrafted quilt featuring photos provided by the Family. Children ages 6 to 12 receive a free, photo-transfer pillow.
Andrea Tebbe, Operation Kid Comfort coordinator at the Fort Bragg ASYMCA, said that the only stipulation is that each photo transferred onto the quilt or pillow must have the deployed servicemember in it.
The quilts and pillows are all designed and stitched by Tebbe and ASYMCA volunteers. A quilt takes an average of six hours to make and a pillow takes about two and a half hours. This doesn't include the time it takes to treat the fabric and transfer the photos.
Tebbe, who started out as volunteer before she took over the program a year and a half ago, said that since she's been there, the ASYMCA has probably given out more than 2,000 quilts and pillows. She said she couldn't even begin to estimate how many quilts and pillows have been given away since Operation Kid Comfort's inception in 2003. She figures the number goes well over 10,000.
One of the recent recipients of a quilt was Jiaqun Brewer, the three-year-old son of Chelle McIntyre-Brewer and deployed Soldier, Capt. Steve Brewer, 1st Theater Sustainment Command. Jiaqun's story is a special one. His dad flew to China on rest and relaxation in September to finalize the adoption paperwork so Chelle could bring him home. Chelle said Jiaqun was going to be excited to see his new quilt, which in addition to having pictures of him with his father, featured fabric with cars and trucks - two of his favorite things.
"Jiaqun's absolutely going to love it," said Chelle when she saw the quilt for the first time. "This is awesome and it's so perfect. Steve's going to love it, too."
Tebbe said that it is the reactions of the children that make her job so special.
"I love doing the quilts, especially when the kids come and see their mom or dad's face." she said. "Their excitement makes it all worthwhile."
The ASYMCA receives requests everyday for quilts and pillows. Due to high demand, it can sometimes take as long as four months for a child to receive their item. Memorial quilts will always take priority.
"Unfortunately, we've made quite a few of those," said Tebbe. "Every time we do one, we cry. It's heartbreaking, but it's also very important to provide children with that memory."
She said that parents have the option of coming in to sew their own items with the materials provided, as well. Spouses of recently deployed servicemembers with the XVIII Airborne Corps are coming in next month to learn how to sew their own quilts. Tebbe said volunteers are always needed, even if it is just to come in and cut fabric.
To request a quilt or pillow for your child, call the ASYMCA at 436-0500.