Watching his "heroes" go through difficult times seemed to have left an impression on Tyler Stallings who wanted to try and help them.
Tyler Stallings was just four years old when his mother started to tell him about the importance of veterans. There were several veterans in their family as well which prompted Andrea Blackstone, to show her son videos about veterans and the things they do for our country. As they watched videos on YouTube, they happened to stumble upon videos about the struggles faced by veterans, specifically how they faced homelessness. Watching his "heroes" go through difficult times seemed to have left an impression on the toddler who wanted to try and help them.
Our friend Tyler Stallings (@HonoraryCEO) came to visit #TheBaltimoreStation again. This time, he brought another 79 Hero Bags for our residents! Stay tuned to see even more from Tyler's visit... pic.twitter.com/gHtIEupNwB— Baltimore Station (@BmoreStation) January 13, 2019
"He saw videos of veterans holding signs to no one responding to their cry for help and he thought this isn't right. He didn't like it," Blackstone told Good Morning America. "He asked me, 'If they're heroes why should they be on the street?'" He asked his mom to take him to Home Depot so he could gather tools to help build houses for the veterans himself. She had to explain to him how they couldn't afford to build houses for the veterans themselves. But this left Blackstone wondering, what they could actually do to help homeless veterans. So she decided to find out.
Blackstone got in touch with Maryland's Governor Larry Hogan who gave Tyler a kid's grant of $100 through Start A Snowball. Using this initial funding, the mother and son set up a GoFundMe. Tyler decided he would gather items like clothes and hygiene products to make care packages that he would then give homeless veterans once a year on Veteran's Day. "It was supposed to be a one-time thing, but it turned into an all-the-time event," Blackstone explained. Tyler is now eight and continues to dedicate his time and effort to the effort he started four years ago.
"Doing something special for veterans began after I started asking my mom why some veterans are homeless," he wrote in the GoFundMe description. "After talking to my mom, I really wanted to help build homes for veterans but together we decided on a more realistic goal. We came up with an idea to make hygiene and grooming kits with thank you cards to give to veterans in need. I call them Hero Bags!" Tyler was able to partner with a backpack company that gifted backpacks to hold his "hero bag" products. He has even worked with a mattress company that donated 250 mattresses to a homeless shelter.
Over the course of four years, Tyler has donated nearly 3,000 hero bags and has raised more than $50,000, reported CNN. Just last year, Tyler and his mother were surprised with $25,000 during their appearance on Good Morning America to continue to help veterans in need. Maryland Center for Veteran Education and Training (MCVET), where Tyler volunteers, also received a $25,000 check. "It's been a journey but a rewarding one," Blackstone had said at the time. "I just want to encourage people to listen to their kids because you never know where their ideas can go."
After receiving the generous check, Tyler said, "I want to help shelters and I also want to help other people to get back on their feet with it." Tyler has even won awards for his work, including the Humanitarian Award from Mr. Steve Harvey on Little Big Shots. He added, "They should have the things they need because of all the good things they've done for our country. It makes me feel very happy and very good when they have a happy reaction." His mom stated: "[The veterans] appreciated it so much. There are a lot of smiles and thank yous involved. Tyler learns a lot about humanity and how to bond with people and be kind. I'm so proud of him being vocal and standing up for what he believes in."
9-year-old Tyler Stallings on making 'hero bags' for homeless veterans: "It was supposed to be something like once a year, or a couple times a year. It wasn't supposed to be almost every month. But eventually I said, 'Mommy, I like this. I want to do it more.'" pic.twitter.com/k5qXzWRtJC— Zerlina on Peacock (@ZerlinaShow) December 10, 2020