ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Maryland (April 20, 2015) -- An Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland, youth has been named U.S. Military Child of the Year by Operation Homefront, a nonprofit organization that provides emergency assistance for U.S. military troops, wounded Service members and their Families.
Thirteen-year-old Cavan McIntyre-Brewer is one of six award recipients, one from each military service, and for the first time this year, the National Guard, selected from nearly 500 nominees chosen by a committee of active-duty and retired military personnel, military spouses, veteran service organization leaders, teachers and community members.
McIntyre-Brewer is the son of Capt. Steven Brewer, medical detachment commander at Aberdeen Proving Ground's Kirk U.S. Army Health Clinic. He also is the founder of Socks for Vets, a nationwide volunteer program, which collects socks and other donated items for Wounded Warriors and other veterans.
He said he developed the idea after visiting inpatient veterans at the North Carolina State Veterans
Home in Fayetteville.
"Our Cub Scout troop planned to sing Christmas carols to [them] and we did, but I noticed that many were lonely and without basic comfort items," he said. "I asked them if they'd like me to come back with socks and blankets and they were excited at the idea that someone would be coming to visit."
At the time, McIntyre-Brewer's father was deployed, and his mother, Michelle McIntyre-Brewer was caring for his sister, Lorelei, who was born missing half of her heart. McIntyre-Brewer said these early lessons gave him a perspective on life that made him want to serve others.
"I found that putting others first actually made me happier. When I spent time helping people, I was able to understand that I wasn't the only one with problems," he said.
Socks for Vets expanded in 2011 with the initiation of the pack goat project. McIntyre-Brewer and his Family raises goats and trains them to carry hunting, hiking, fishing and camping supplies for disabled veterans so they are able to enjoy nature outings without having to carry their supplies. Each goat is named after the Wounded Warrior it serves.
Additionally, McIntyre-Brewer helps his sister, also a semi-finalist for this award, with her program, Heart Hugs, which makes and collects child-size compression pillows for pediatric heart patients.
He helps distribute the pillows at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, where his sister receives pediatric care.
When he is not volunteering, McIntyre-Brewer enjoys computers, air rifles, woodworking and riding his all-terrain vehicle.
He has advice for other children who are considering volunteering but do not know where or how to start.
"Try to find ways to get involved in the community that interests you. If you like sports, find a way to volunteer by running in charity runs. If you like animals, get involved with a shelter. There are needs all around you. You just have to figure out what your passion is and go from there," he said.
McIntyre-Brewer said he would like to be an Alaskan State Trooper when he grows up, because the job will combine his love of animals, nature and law enforcement.
For now, he hopes that winning this award will provide an even larger platform for the causes that matter most to him.
"Perhaps my dream to finally have a memorial service at the Korean War memorial on Veteran's Day, like there is at the World War II and Vietnam memorials, can finally become a reality," he said.
McIntyre-Brewer has been recognized several times for his outstanding service to Wounded Warriors and veterans. In 2014, he received the Maryland Governor's Volunteerism Award, and was named an official "Hero" for the "Kids are Heroes" Award.
"Veterans and Wounded Warriors aren't 'that guy in a wheelchair,' or a homeless person that no one seems to care about," he said. "They are normal people that want the same things we do. When I spend time with them, I feel like my family just gets bigger and bigger."
Courtesy of Operation Homefront, each of the award recipients will receive $10,000, a laptop computer and other donated gifts. Recipients were flown with a parent or guardian to the nation's capital for a recognition gala, April 16.