Last Updated on April 26, 2023 by Luke Feldbrugge
Little Patriots Embraced is dedicated to providing support to children of military service members across the nation. The Homes for Heroes Foundation awarded the organization a $10,000 hero grant to assist in their mission to support these kids.
Little Patriots Embraced Interview with Jay Flynn
Homes for Heroes Outreach Coordinator, Jay Flynn, talks to Carol Watanabe, founder and executive director of Little Patriots Embraced. You can watch the full interview here or read the transcript of the interview below.
Jay: Hello. Thanks for joining us today. Today I’m joined by Carol Watanabe. She is the founder and executive director of Little Patriots Embraced. Carol, thank you for joining me today.
Carol: It’s wonderful to be here today.
Jay: Awesome. The Homes for Heroes Foundation provides grants to nonprofits whose mission is to help our heroes in dire need. I am thrilled to announce that Little Patriots Embraced is a Home for Heroes April 2023 Grant Recipient. Carol, I’m so honored to present this check to Little Patriots Embraced for $10,000 from the Homes for Heroes Foundation.
Carol: That is totally amazing. We are so thankful to be chosen. This is just a wonderful, wonderful thing for us. Thank you so much.
Jay: Absolutely. Where we’re ecstatic to be able to help. We certainly owe our gratitude to all of our military heroes. And we hope that this Homes for Heroes Foundation Grant helps Little Patriots Embraced serve the children of these heroes.
Let’s just take a few minutes and talk about Little Patriots Embraced and its mission. You founded Little Patriots Embraced in 2004. Tell me a little bit about what inspired you to found this wonderful nonprofit.
Carol: Well, first of all, my father served in the military. His brothers served in the military. And then more recently, I had a nephew that went overseas and served. When he came back, he had a lot of issues, as many of our veterans do. He struggled for many years. That was the reason why I started this, because I saw what happened to his family.
He ended up being divorced when he came home. He couldn’t hold his family together. I thought of the hardship I saw in him, and I wondered how I could help. How could we help these young children that are going through so much? The deployment alone is very difficult on the kids. That’s why we started a Little Patriots Embraced back in 2004.
Jay: As you know, April is the Month of the Military Child. With that in mind, tell us about the programs that Little Patriots Embraced offers to support the families and children of our military heroes?
Carol: Well, first we have our deployment packages. Right now we are in our office diligently counting little pairs of bloomers and little skirts to go on our bears. Those go into a military package for children. Parents, as well as military bases, will contact us, and we will put together these packages for their children. We send out this package with a letter stating to the child that they serve too, and how important they are.
That is one of our programs. That’s a program that goes on every day here at our Little Patriots office. We also have our Military Kids Fit for Life program, and we have Project Very Essentials–two separate programs. Military Kids Fit for Life is an anti-bullying program. We teach the kids how to be heroes in their own life.
It’s a very important program. It’s sought after by military bases around the country. In fact, we’re headed up to upstate New York next week to put on these programs for the kids up there. They have a very big deployment going out in the next couple of months. So they have a lot of kids that are going to be affected by that.
Our Very Essentials Program is a reading program and a kids chat. And we also take that to the military bases. The reading program we put on is for younger children aged two through age 12. Then we engage in a children’s chat and let them talk about what they do to help Mom when Daddy’s gone–or help Daddy when Mommy’s gone, when they’re deployed. It’s a wonderful program. The kids end up with a medal, one of our little mascot bears, and a book that they can take with them. It’s a great program. It lasts for about an hour and a half. In the upcoming session, we’re putting on two sessions on a Saturday.
It will be back-to-back. They have quite a few children, with this deployment coming up. Project Essentials was one of our first programs, along with Military Kids Set for Life.
Since then we have started a Little Babes Program, where we collect baby items all year long and we take them to the military bases for the new moms. Anything from diapers to little outfits to hand-crocheted items–things that they’re not normally going to get. It’s always nice to have something like that when you have a baby and you don’t have your family around you.
Then we also have our Kids Bike program, and this is a wonderful program. We have partnered with a local group here in Saint Louis–these are all veterans–and they rehab bicycles and provide the helmets to us.
We usually take a 26-foot U-Haul truck to each military base about four times a year. They are overjoyed to see these bicycles. And some of the bikes are like antiques–little scooters and things like that for the children. The bikes for military kids is a great program. Those are some of the things that we do.
We also have our family emergency program. I’m mentioning that last because it’s going to roll into a little story about one of our families. That’s the program that steps in when families are in crisis, either due to health issues or other things.
If we have the funds available, we can help that family. That’s why I really wanted to talk more about it, because that is what we’re going to be using the funds from your organization for this year.
We had a family with six military children in the family. They were stationed at Fort Campbell in Kentucky, and they just left the service about a year ago. They’re doing good. They’re doing great. But their middle child, Kelsey, was diagnosed with a brain tumor.
She had cancer and she was coming into Saint Louis, to the Children’s Hospital and the Siteman Cancer Center. We are hands-on with these kinds of families. This is just one of many families throughout the 19 years that we’ve been serving. Our volunteers go up to the hospital, take care of the other children, occupy them while Kelsey was going through her treatments, and we would also provide hotels.
We partner with some big brand names here in Saint Louis. The hotels will give the rooms to these families while they’re going through treatment. We provide food and other things for the kids. This particular family, it was a long four and a half years that we served that particular family. And they went through a lot of hardships.
You know, these families that fall into situations like that, they can lose their home. They lived off base and they ended up losing their home. They have TRICARE, they’re covered by insurance, but there is always that gap in Medicaid, certain medications that they won’t pay for. This family was really financially destroyed from their child’s illness.
So that’s one family that we have helped. I can tell you many more. We have an upcoming family that we’re also trying to help, and it’s a very sad story. We’ve already helped them to a certain degree with preschool for the smaller, younger child. They have six children between the ages of three and 17, and both parents are deceased.
There was a very bad incident that took place, and the mother was killed. Then the father was taken down. With vets, you know, these people suffer so much when they’re deployed. Some of them come back and they’re just not the same. They need a lot of help. This individual just wasn’t able to get the help that he needed.
It’s a very sad story. The grandmother came from Illinois and has gone to Texas. She’s down there trying to raise and figure out what she’s going to do with all of these grandchildren, with nobody there to help. We’ve already helped them. We put this little child in preschool, which helped her get out of the house, because this incident took place in the home.
The rest of the children were in school. These are the kind of things that come to us. Family readiness officers, and others, from different bases contact us because they know that we’re hands-on. We try to help any way that we can. That’s pretty much all of our programs. We do a lot. We work out of a humble, small office here in Fenton, Missouri.
We just moved from Kirkwood to cut our overhead. But our arms reached across this whole country. We’ve served over 90,000 military children since 2004.
Jay: Wow, that is amazing. I mean, those programs that you talk about are impactful. But when you talk about specifically helping families in need, that is exactly what the Home for Heroes Foundation is all about–helping our nation’s heroes. To hear how the foundation grant is going to help Little Patriots Embraced to help a family that continues to be in dire need…
Carol: That’s what it’s all about. We’re a nonprofit here. We’re all volunteers. No one is paid. And we’ve been around for 19 years serving. I’m very proud of that. All of our volunteers are wonderful people, and they do love our military families.
Jay: That’s awesome. And you said 90,000 military children?
Carol: We can more than fill our Busch Stadium here downtown. In fact, we’ve had kids at Busch Stadium. We had programs down there for five years straight where we brought children that had never been to a baseball stadium. And we brought them in and let them, you know, just take in everything.
We put on some of our programs right there at Busch Stadium. There are wonderful programs that we do on the side. We’ll plan special events for the kids.
Jay: That’s awesome. You and your volunteers and Little Patriots Embraced are doing wonderful things that make a tremendous difference. Share with our audience a bit about how they can get involved in supporting your mission and where they can go to learn about Little Patriots Embraced.
Carol: First of all, our phone number is 314-821-5801. If they are so anxious that they want to contact us immediately, ring our phone. We’ll have someone here to answer you. If we are at lunch, leave a message and we will call you back. They can also go to our website, Little Patriots Embraced, and they can contact us through the page there.
You can also learn more about our programs, and you can learn about our supporters there. I really encourage your audience to do that.
Jay: Awesome. Carol, thanks. You’re obviously busy. We want to support the work that Little Patriots Embraced is doing. An easy way for you to show support is to give this video a like, leave us a comment and, most importantly, share it. That way we get to spread the word about the great work that this great organization is doing.
Make sure you tune in to future episodes to learn more about all the great nonprofits that the Homes for Heroes Foundation partners with to help our heroes in dire need. Until next time, remember to say thank you to a hero sometime today.
Carol: Thank you.
Homes for Heroes
Grants from the Homes for Heroes Foundation are made possible by the Homes for Heroes Circle of Giving and its network of real estate professionals. These professionals are committed to providing savings to groups, such as firefighters, EMTs, law enforcement, military, active and veterans, health care professionals and teachers. Thank you for watching another Homes for Heroes Foundation grant video about the impact we are making in the hero community with our nonprofit partners.
Don’t forget to subscribe to the whole series on our YouTube channel. You can learn more about the savings available to Heroes through Homes for Heroes, or you can learn more about how the Homes for Heroes Foundation is helping Heroes in dire need. Visit Homes for Heroes or simply to make a donation.