By Andrea Blackstone

Tyler Stallings is a typical 4-year-old boy who jumps in mud puddles and plays with trucks. However, my son is the child of a veteran and so am I. Tyler became interested in helping homeless and elderly veterans after I showed him photos of them and explaining different hardships that some of our heroes endured.

After learning that some veterans are homeless, Tyler informed me that he needed to purchase materials to build a house.

“We don’t have enough money to do that,” I explained.

“But I have money in my bank,” Tyler replied, offering his change collection to finance the venture.

We ultimately crafted a feasible plan to collect and distribute hygiene products to elderly and homeless veterans for a new “holiday.”

I submitted a project proposal on Tyler’s behalf to to Start A Snowball, a charitable organization that empowers kids to engage in philanthropy.

When I notified Tyler that his idea had been approved for a $100 grant, he jumped around the room. The funds led to other doors opening.

While waiting for Tyler’s seed money to arrive, we began raising additional funds for Tyler’s new holiday on March 26, 2016 called “Give Back to Veterans Day.” Tyler raised $155 more after we set up a GoFundMe account, and posting video requests Tyler made through social media. I also typed a donation letter for store managers to review.

“Mom, I need to work on my veteran’s project,” Tyler often said during time he could have played.

He wanted to raise as much money to buy toothbrushes, toothpaste, deodorant, razors, shaving cream and soap for homeless and elderly veterans as he could. Since we do not run a nonprofit, requests were challenging. However, Tyler was relentless. Gift cards valued at approximately $175 enabled him to purchase listed items.

A trip to visit friends who own Rosemary’s Beauty & Barber Supplies led to an unexpected blessing. Boxes of grooming products for Tyler’s holiday awaited us. Purchases and donated items valued between $700-$800 were distributed to a transitional home for veterans, and to a home for older veterans. Tyler toured both places and met elderly veterans who served in the military.

On his final giving day, a large banner with his typed name on it hung at the front of the room. He was asked to explain why he collected donations as veterans listened to a little boy who paid them a pre-Easter visit.

“Because I want people to remember what they did for the country all year long,” Tyler said, speaking into a microphone for the first time.

When I heard those words, I was glad that I listened to a young boy’s concerns and supported his ideas. A small group of people responded to Tyler’s plea to give back to veterans, but the ripple effect has the potential to encourage more individuals to take action in their communities, too.