Moms with a cause: Advocating for military kids worldwide
Jewell Willett, mom to daughter Ella (age 2), is a mom who is lucky enough to incorporate her cause with her job.
As vice-president of communications for The Comfort Crew for Military Kids, Jewell is able to support and advocate for military children worldwide, a cause that is near and dear to her heart.
You may remember Jewell Willett from our Families around the world series on SheKnows Parenting, where she and her husband Brandon, and daughter Ella were living in Tokyo (Ella was born there!). Jewell, who was working for the USO in Japan, helping the American public support military troops worldwide, has moved back to the United States with her family. She has a new job, working under a similar umbrella, as vice-president of communications for The Comfort Crew for Military Kids (CCMK). While the transition from life in Japan to life in Dallas, Texas was a big one, the switch from helping to support the troops to helping their children has been a natural one for Jewell.
What is The Comfort Crew for Military Kids?
An organization that has touched the lives of 120,000 military children in its young life, The Comfort Crew for Military Kids was co-founded by Trevor Romain and travels in partnership with the USO to help military children around the world manage the realities of having a parent (or both parents) deployed. The organization also supports them through other military family-related situations, such as reintegration, moving, visible and invisible injuries and — most heartbreaking of all — grief.
The Comfort Crew's message that we're "With You All the Way!" seems simple, until you delve into all of the ways that this small, but strong, organization helps military children and their families. Only military families know the daily, ongoing struggles of a life of service. As The Comfort Crew for Military Kids website brings to light, the seemingly "resilient" children of parents who serve in the military are anything but. Imagine, just for a moment, being a child who has a parent who is deployed for an unknown length of time, a child whose parent comes home with an injury, a child who has to change schools mid-school year over and over again or a child whose parent was a casualty of their assignment. That pit that you're feeling in your stomach right now is a daily reality for many military children who The Comfort Crew strives to help.
Beyond the face-to-face advocacy that The Comfort Crew for Military Kids does through their events while on tour with the USO, they also assemble and distribute comfort kits to children. Each kit includes items such as a journal, a DVD that helps connect them to their feelings, the beloved Cuzzie — a patchwork bear stuffed animal — and additional items specific to each child's situation. Jewell talks about the first time she came in contact with The Comfort Crew and the work they were doing. "My heart melted every time a military kid received a Comfort Kit with Cuzzie inside," she shares. "You could see the feeling of instant relaxation, and for one minute, they forget about their parent going to war."
The Comfort Crew for Military Kids also runs a summer camp called Camp Hero for kids with immediate family in the military.
A personal cause connection
Jewell shares her own personal reasons for being drawn to working for The Comfort Crew. "I was drawn to the overall message of youth empowerment that comes from our resources," she explains. "I was often bullied when I was younger and taunted by cliques when I was in high school. Trevor (CCMK's co-founder) gives children the confidence to face their fears and speak up when something is wrong."
The connection to The Comfort Crew goes even deeper for Jewell and her family — including her mom and her six siblings — who grew up as military kids themselves. "They moved around a lot," Jewell candidly shares, "Ultimately, they lost their father to the stress of returning home from war."
Jewell reflects on her work with The Comfort Crew for Military Kids as a sort of redemption for the suffering that her mom and her mom's siblings endured during that difficult time. "CCMK works to support and comfort these great kids during those tough times."
What you can do to help
Visit The Comfort Crew's get involved page to find out more about supporting military children through their efforts. Beyond needing donations and sponsors for Comfort Kits, volunteers are often needed at events (nationwide) or in their Austin-based office. Keep an eye on The Comfort Crew for Military Kids Facebook page for the most recent information.