Fort Belvoir youth with deployed parents will be able to have a quilt or pillow made to remember that Family member thanks to the Army Community Service Mobilization/Deployment and Readiness programs' pending partnership with Operation Kid Comfort.

Operation Kid Comfort, which is run by the Armed Services YMCA, creates custom-made quilts and pillows for children of deployed U.S. military personnel. Photos of the deployed parent are printed onto fabric and sewn into the quilt or pillow. Each child received a quilt/pillow depending on age. Children 6 and under receive a quilt, 7 and older receive a pillow. Both quilts and pillows contain pictures of the deployed parent.

"Each one is personalized to the child in that it has the child's name, the operation kid comfort logo and it has the military seal of the branch their parent serves in," said Operation Kid Comfort program manager, Giselle Schneider.

With each quilt and pillow that is sent, a card that has the child's name and a picture of the child with their dad or mom is included. On the inside of the card is a script where the quilt or pillow is talking to the child saying "this is for you, personalized for you." The card is included so the child knows the quilt or pillow is theirs, according to Schneider.

She also said there is one more personal touch she likes to add to each quilt or pillow.

"One of the things I like to do is put 'I love my Daddy' or 'My daddy's my hero' on the pictures that are on the quilt or pillow," said Schneider. "I do the same thing if it's a mother that is deployed."

The personal experience of having a Family member deploy is what caused Schneider to become involved in the program.

Schneider's son served in the U.S. Marine Corps from 2005-2009, deploying multiple times.

"For one of his deployments, my husband and I were at Camp Lejeune. I was standing in the fog looking at my son and seeing everything through the perspective of a mother's eyes. When the fog lifted, I saw Families and their children and it really impacted me," said Schneider. "When we left I looked for something I could do to help the military Families and I found information on Operation Kid Comfort."

ACS is excited for the pending partnership because it will provide an activity for both the deployed Family and for people who would like to volunteer to support deployed Families.

"This is the idea behind the Army Community Covenant to have civilian agencies assist military programs for each installation in the Army," said Mobilization/Deployment and Readiness Program Manager, Carol Janer. "With our dwindling resources in Family Programs, a partnership with the Armed Forces YMCA/Kid Comfort Program will allow us to offer programs that we do not fund and we help them by supplying a place for them to reach out to military Families and recruit volunteers."

Families who take advantage of the program usually update Schneider on the impact the quilts or pillows has had on their children.

The updates are always positive.

"I received an e-mail from one of the mom's recently whose children are 1, 3 and 4 years old," said Schneider. "The 4-year old hugs the quilt every day and said it was like receiving a hug from his Dad.
The three year old see's the pictures and kisses her dad's picture. The one year old asks for the quilts two or three times a day and they have to be laid down on the floor so he can circle around each one of them and touch the picture of his father."

Stories like that are what make Schneider proud to be involved in the program.

"It's an incredible impact these quilts have on a child's life," said Schneider.

Page last updated Tue January 10th, 2012 at 12:58