At just 4-years-old, Tyler Stallings felt compelled to help veterans. Now 8, Tyler has raised an estimated $100,000 for veterans and isn’t finished yet.
Tyler’s mother Andrea Blackstone set about educating her son on the US military and veterans, when he was just four. It began with brief, informational YouTube videos about the military, but soon escalated to videos depicting veterans struggling with homelessness. Tyler did not like what he saw.
“At first I was hesitant to show him the videos,” Blackstone recounted to Military Times.
“He lit up, and he was upset. He kept telling me it wasn’t right.”
And that’s when Tyler began asking his mom to help him purchase construction materials to build veterans their own houses.
Blackstone says she was shocked and impressed by her son’s desire to help veterans in need, but quickly explained to him that she just did not have the resources to build them places to live, so she set out to find other ways to help her son help veterans.
The two sent a letter to the Maryland governor’s office, inquiring about what was already being done to help veterans in need. The two also proposed a “Give Back to Veterans Day,” an idea from Tyler, to a local nonprofit, which granted Tyler $100 to begin making care packages.
Blackstone then asked her son if he would like to take the campaign to social media, and they began recording and posting videos of their efforts.
Blackstone and Tyler have now been fundraising and donating for the last four years
“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.”
Now, Tyler has made donations ranging from care packages for individuals, to mattresses and air conditioners for veterans shelters, earning several awards for his charity along the way.
Tyler has received the William Donald Schaefer Helping People Award for Baltimore County, and was even named a GoFundMe Kid Hero.
Blackstone and Tyler, who currently live with Blackstone’s Army veteran brother, say they eventually hope to start an official non-profit, but until then they won’t stop helping veterans in any way they can.
“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.