Kathy Stewart, wtop.com
WASHINGTON - Olympian Gabby Douglas and her mother Natalie Hawkins paid a visit to the Washington area to honor the nonprofit Our Military Kids at its 2013 celebration.
The nonprofit organization gives grants to children of deployed Reservists and Guardsmen and also to children of fallen and wounded warriors.
"Just being here is phenomenal," says Gabby Douglas. "I know Our Military Kids donated to me so I could strive for my dreams."
For Douglas, those dreams turned out to be golden. During the London 2012 Summer Olympics, Douglas won two gold medals in Gymnastics.
Her dad a Virginia Air National Guardsman was deployed to Iraq in 2006. Meanwhile, her mom was struggling to pay for an elite gymnastics camp that was hugely important for her daughter, because the camp forever changed Douglas' future in gymnastics.
"We are grateful to be here," Hawkins says, adding at the time she had three other kids in sports.
But Hawkins says the grant money helped make the camp a reality for Douglas and advanced her gymnastics career.
"I was incredibly thankful and grateful that they chose her as a recipient of one of the grants," Hawkins says.
Even though the grant was for $500, it meant everything at the time. The mother and daughter have not forgotten that gift and are forever grateful.
"To get the grant to pay for those expenses was very crucial at that time," Hawkins says.
Linda Davidson, founder and executive director of the nonprofit, says Our Military Kids started about nine years ago. She says the reason for focusing on Reservists and Guardsman is because they generally do not live near military bases and are mostly on their own in the community.
Davidson says the idea behind Our Military Kids was to make sure the kids were being taken care of and that they had a chance to pursue something fun so they could keep their minds off of missing their deployed mom or dad. The goal is to provide a positive distraction and help relieve the stress of separation from a parent.
The organization has provided $17 million in grants from April 2005 to March 2013, with the largest individual grant set at $500. Our Military Kids has provided grants to more than 41,000 kids.
At Friday's celebration, Douglas was given an honoree award from the organization. She says the award is like a gold medal for her. The celebration also honored four military kids of the year and a military family of the year.
To apply for a grant or make a donation, visit the nonprofit's website.
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