“It’s been a lot but the reward is just seeing people get help," says the little one's mom.
Tyler Stallings is only nine-years-old, but he has been helping homeless veterans ever since he was four, as per Military Times. It's been only four years, but so far, he's managed to raise an estimated $100,000 and thousands of supplies for veterans and military families in his community, according to his family. His efforts haven't gone unnoticed, either. Recently, Stallings received the William Donald Schaefer Helping People Award for Baltimore County. According to the website, The William Donald Schaefer Helping People Award is presented by the Comptroller of Maryland to the individuals and organizations in each of the 23 counties and Baltimore City who best exemplify William Donald Schaefer's lifelong commitment to helping people.
According to his mom Andrea Blackstone, when Stallings was about four, she showed him a few YouTube videos about veterans and military service. Her intention was to help her son learn about the services they do for the country he lives in, considering they have a lot of veterans in their family itself. That's when she came across certain videos that showed veterans being homeless. Initially, Blackstone was hesitant to show Stallings these videos, but then she decided that it was something he ought to see. She showed him one which included imagery of those veterans with signs asking for help.
“He lit up, and he was upset,” Blackstone said. “He kept telling me it wasn’t right.” Then, the little boy asked his mom to take him shopping for supplies, insisting that he would help these veterans if no one else would. Blackstone, who was touched and taken aback by her son's request, told him that though she understood his passion to help the veterans, they did not have the funds to build them homes. Determined not to give up, the mother-son duo decided to look for another way to help them. First, they started sending in questions to their home state of Maryland to the governor’s office asking what was being done for the veterans.
Then, Blackstone submitted her son’s idea to start “Give Back to Veterans Day” to a nonprofit, which conferred him a $100 to begin making care packages for veterans that included toiletries and ‘thank you’ cards. “It was always very important to me from the very beginning for anyone to understand this was not my idea, this was a little kid who’s barely 4-years-old, his idea,” Blackstone said. “I think sometimes people assume, because someone is so young, that it would be impossible to come up with something like this.” Blackstone asked her son if he was ok with his deeds being shared on social media for the world to see, and he agreed.
After the first few donations, Stallings told his mom that he wanted to continue helping veterans and since then, there's been no looking back for Stallings. “I think the resounding message has been if a kid this young can care and put so much effort into the cause, then other people can get involved and figure out how we can support our veterans on the community level, too,” Blackstone said. Being a single mom, it hasn't been easy for Blackstone, but she doesn't think they'll give up any time soon. “It’s just a lot of different things I didn’t anticipate but the goal is to keep it going because we see the value of the help,” Blackstone said. “It’s been a lot but the reward is just seeing people get help.”