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Community-Minded Kids: Tyler Stallings This Baltimore youth proves that age isn’t a requirement for giving back

 

Tyler Stallings Charitable children
Tyler Stallings. | Photo: Andrea Blackstone.

 

Even the Very Young Can Help Veterans

Sometimes it’s hard to believe the words coming out of Tyler Stallings’ mouth are from a 10-year-old child.

“Basically, when I was 4, I had a very real awakening to what veterans had to go through when they got out of the military,” says Tyler, a homeschooled fifth grader.


His mom, Andrea Blackstone, was sitting nearby, but his words were completed uncoached. Still, she’s played a big part in his “awakening” and volunteerism.

Tyler’s empathy for homeless vets was sparked by YouTube videos he watched for homeschool lessons.

“Basically, I saw veterans standing on the streets holding up cardboard signs and I said, ‘Wow, they don’t deserve to go through this,’” he explains.

With plenty of veterans in his family—his grandpa, many uncles and cousins, including his famous great-uncle, Alex Haley—his 4-year-old instinct was to get to work building houses for the homeless vets. Andrea helped hone his idea into their Give Back to Veterans outreach, which provides basic necessities—toiletries, clothing, coats and more.

“When Tyler expressed interest in helping, I wanted him to feel that I would always listen to him, although he was really young,” says Andrea.

With seed money from friends and family, plus a $100 Start a Snowball grant and citation from Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan himself, Tyler began regularly purchasing items to fill “hero bags and hero boxes” distributed at the Maryland Center for Veterans Education and Training (MCVET) and other organizations.

“It makes me very happy inside knowing that tonight they’ll be comfortable,” Tyler says.

Through six years of volunteering, his giveaway efforts have equaled $110,000—including a $25,000 donation from “Good Morning America.” Additionally, when Leesa Mattresses heard about his efforts, they donated 250 mattresses to MCVET.

“A lot of the veterans still remember that, even though it’s been two years,” Tyler says with a big smile.

Andrea responds, “I’m hoping he’ll always be able to come back to these moments that meant something to people.”

 

Advice from the Expert

What Tyler Stallings has to say about volunteering

“Start small, because that’s how we did it,” says Tyler Stallings. “You don’t have to be a millionaire, or rich. You can partner with your school, your principal, your mom or dad. The list goes on and on.”

 

Tyler’s Cause

Why He Helps Veterans

The nonprofit MCVET provides services and shelter to homeless veterans, and equips them to rejoin the community as productive citizens.

The number of homeless American veterans was roughly cut in half over the past 10 years, from 74,000 to 37,000.

According to the latest figures, Maryland ranks 21st in the country for its number of homeless vets, 464.

 

For More Info

The Maryland Center for Veteran Education Training, mcvet.org

About Karen Hendricks

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