This article by Karen Jowers originally appeared on Military Times, the nation's largest independent newsroom dedicated to covering the military and veteran community.
A new initiative is seeking out the voices of America’s military-connected caregiving youth to further shine a light on the experiences of “hidden helpers” — children living with and serving wounded, ill or injured service members and veterans.
Children and young adults are asked to submit their stories in the way they want to tell them — through writing, drawing, film, photography or other means. It’s the beginning of the “Untold Story Challenge,” launched by the History Channel and A&E Networks in partnership with the Elizabeth Dole Foundation. The final form of the project hasn’t yet been determined, as officials are intentionally keeping it very broad, said Rashi Venkataraman Romanoff, executive vice president of the Dole Foundation, which oversees the Hidden Helpers Coalition.
The idea is to give these children a voice because “these families aren’t readily seen,” she said. “But it’s also giving kids the opportunities to see themselves in the stories of others.”
To submit materials, visit hiddenheroes.org/untoldstory. The deadline for these initial entries is Jan. 20, and winners and prizes will be announced in April. But the portal will remain open to encourage more stories, officials said. Military and veteran children and young adults age 24 and under are eligible.
[RELATED: MOAA Joins Hidden Helpers Coalition]
The coalition, which was launched a year ago at the White House, is a partnership with First Lady Jill Biden’s Joining Forces Initiative, the Dole Foundation and Wounded Warrior Project in response to a study that highlighted concerns about the 2.3 million children and young adults who are military and veteran caregivers.
The coalition has grown from 60 partners to 78, with a diverse group of private, nonprofit, government and other entities. The History Channel is among the new partners. Romanoff said the “Untold Story Challenge” is an example of the commitments the members have brought to the table.
“These kids out there need our help and they need our support. There are 2.3 million in every corner of the country who require more support and more services,” Romanoff said.
In the past year, “a fire has been lit for us and our partners to support the children and youth helping take care of our wounded, ill or injured service members,” said Steve Schwab, CEO of the Dole Foundation and co-chair of the coalition, in a statement announcing the progress and the initiatives.
“These remarkable young people not only share in the sacrifices their loved ones made to our country, but they assume caregiving responsibilities that the outside world never sees and certainly does not understand,” said retired Lt. Gen. Mike Linnington, CEO of Wounded Warrior Project and co-chair of the coalition.
“The members of the coalition are working hard to adapt already existing programming or develop new initiatives to support the unique needs of this population.”
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