By Cathy Pauley, USARECJuly 3, 2014
SACRAMENTO, CALIF., (July 3, 2014) -- Sixteen-year-old Kenzie Hall knows the stress military kids feel when a parent deploys to a combat zone. She also knows what it's like to experience constant change. Kenzie has moved more than 10 times, and at one point, she attended three schools in one year.
"I think most kids who are not in the military are not used to adapting to change," said Kenzie. "I have seen a lot of the world and what it has to offer. I take those lessons and use them to create my own success."
Kenzie, daughter of San Marcos Calif., Recruiting Company Commander Jason Hall, felt compassion for children left behind by parents who were called to defend their nation.
With the help of her mother, Aerica, she formed "Brat Pack 11," a foundation dedicated to supporting the children of military heroes by providing them with unforgettable experiences and connecting them with a network of support, (Tweet: @Brat_Pack11). Her compassion and tirelessness effort got her nominated and selected for the Army Military Child of the Year, (MCOY).
Dena Yllescas-Johnston whose husband Capt. Robert Yllescas died in 2008 from wounds he received in Afghanistan, recommended Kenzie to the MCOY selection committee. Yllescas-Johnston's daughters were the first recipients to have their dream come true from Kenzie's foundation, which reached out to Yllescas-Johnston to see what the foundation could do for her two little girls.
"Our girls wanted to go to Disneyland," said Yllescas-Johnston. "Kenzie made this dream come true. She was only 11 years old at the time."
In her letter of recommendation, Yllescas-Johnston told the committee, "It's absolutely amazing to me how much Kenzie has accomplished in her short life. If anyone is deserving of this award, it is Kenzie."
Larry Murray, Executive Director of Boot Campaign, an organization that raises awareness of challenges facing American troops, also nominated Kenzie. Boot Camp picked up Brat Pack 11 as the cornerstone for its children's program.
"I have had the opportunity of being acquainted with countless children of active duty service members and veterans," said Murray. "All of them have been amazing in their own right, but none of them have demonstrated resiliency, leadership, and achievement like Kenzie."
June Morse with Operation Home Front that sponsors the MCOY event, said Kenzie's family is her rock.
"Jason and Aerica have built a very strong family foundation for their girls," she said. "These are two girls are willing to try anything. I think their parents installed wings because they have dreams and they find ways to live them."
Kenzie and her 11-year-old sister Madison have continued to represent military kids in the community. They were selected as the Army children at a June San Diego Padres "Military Kids Appreciation" night alongside children from other services. Following the ceremony on the mound, Kenzie did an interview with the local television affiliate of Fox Sports. http://m.mlb.com/sd/video/topic/20153070/v34166707/arisd-telecast-talks-to-founder-of-bratpack-charity/?c_id=sd.
Yllescas-Johnston summed up how Kenzie truly lives the Army Values.
"Kenzie is an amazing young lady who has not only endured deployments and moving but also understands the sacrifice so many children make," she said. "She puts others before herself and has the ability to bring smiles and joy to those children who have lost so much."
Kenzie was presented with the 2014 Army Military Child of the Year award April 10. She was also awarded a laptop and a $5,000 cash prize.
You can communication with Kenzie on her Facebook page at, https://www.facebook.com/pages/BRAT-PACK-11-Kenzie-Hall/106241082168.