‘Hero packs’ made by Potsdam youth will help kids connect with military parents on deployment
Wednesday, April 13, 2011 - 6:22 am

POTSDAM – A local AmeriCorps volunteer with the American Red Cross of Northern New York will join with a Potsdam High School civics and government teacher to run a support project for kids with military parents during AmeriCorps week May 14 through 21.

On May 16, the New York State Operation: Military Kids is offering Ready, Set, Go! training to high school students in Potsdam, according to Red Cross volunteer Rachael Simons. The presentations increase awareness of issues facing children of military members, aspects of military culture, and the deployment cycle. The next day, students can have their pictures taken with a sign that says that they stand behind military kids. These pictures will then be uploaded to a Flikr.com group made by the National Military Family Association.

The students from Mr. Joachim Van Ells' civics and government classes will assemble “hero packs” for local military youth. These are backpacks with mementos and items designed to help keep military kids connected with their deployed parent.

If you would like to participate in the making of the hero packs, there are plenty of items that can be donated and accepted at the Potsdam Red Cross office on 73 Market Street, including playing cards, Rubix cubes, Frisbees, yo-yos, travel card games, stationary, journal books, stamps, calling cards, small games, toys and stuffed animals.

Northern New York is home to the most-deployed division in the Army, the 10th Mountain Division at Fort Drum.

There and at bases around the country, and many soldiers and their families reside beyond the gates in communities that are often as far as 70 miles from the installation -- away from the key military family supports. And there are over 15,000 National Guard and Reserve soldiers in New York, living in all parts of the state and not on military installations.

Compounding deployment issues are financial problems, military services not easily accessible, and schools not prepared for stressors such as the safety of a parent or a parent not being able to attend a special event; along with a general lack of community awareness and support, war dramatization by the media, and a lack of consistent quality child care.

All donations will go into the hero packs and be assembled by Potsdam students. At a later date, the students will be able to distribute the hero packs to local military kids. There is a goal of 75 hero packs.

For more information, contact the Northern New York Red Cross at 73 Market St., Potsdam, rsimons@redcrossnny.com, or 268-0102.