Illinois Military Kids supports and serves our geographically dispersed military children and teens. Youth programs provided include camps (both overnight and day camps), support at family days and Yellow Ribbon events, the Pillow Case Project, Guardian Bears, IMK Family Packs, and Operation Family Time Out.
IMK programs focus on building resiliency of youth during all phases of the deployment cycle and fostering pride in their family members' military service. In addition, IMK provides trainings to educate communities on the impact of the deployment cycle on children and ways they can support children of our military residing in their local communities.
IMK is a collaborative partnership of many organizations that care about our military children, including the University of Illinois Extension/4-H, the American Legion and American Legion Auxiliary, the Illinois National Guard, the Illinois Network of Child Care Resource and Referral Agencies, and the U.S. Army Child, Youth, and School Services.
Our mission is to provide a state and local community support network which delivers a wide range of recreational, social, and educational programs for military youth living in civilian communities, and educate the public on the impact of growing up in a military family.
Illinois Military Kids is reaching out to children and families through the following ways:
- Pillow Case Project (Pre-deployment) - We take a photo of the service member and his/her family, print it out on special photo transfer sheets, iron it onto pillow cases, and present one photo pillow case to each person in the family. The service member takes his/hers overseas, and each family member here at home can enjoy the comfort of a "hug" from their deployed dad or mom. Funding for the Pillow Case Project is from the American Legion, American Legion Auxiliary, and the Sons of the American Legion here in Illinois.
- Guardian Bears (Pre-deployment) - New stuffed bears are donated and fitted with a camouflage vest that includes a hidden pocket in the back. A comforting message or memento from the deploying Service member is tucked inside the pocket for his child/sister/brother. The bears and their hidden message offer comfort and encouragement to children throughout the deployment cycle. This program promotes civilian awareness of and support for our military families as the civilians donate the bears and sew the vests.
- Family Packs - These packs contain games and activities to help reintegrating Service members and their families to spend time together reconnecting, having fun, and getting to know each other again following a return home from deployment. Groups of non-military youth write letters of appreciation that are included in the packs, as well as donating games and gifts for the families, and delivering the packs to the families at Yellow Ribbon reintegration events. This program promotes civilian awareness of and support for our military families.
- Tech Discovery Toolkit - The toolkit includes 8 iPads that can be used at IMK supported events and activities to allow military children to learn technology like photo and video editing and to communicate with their deployed family member. The kit also includes Power of the Wind supplies and multiple STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) activities and curriculum. Planned programs using the Tech Discovery Toolkit assist in supporting the military family as a whole.
How can you help?
Create a Family Pack to donate to a military family: Family Packs contain games and activities to help reintegrating Service members and their families to spend time together reconnecting, having fun, and getting to know each other again following a return home from deployment. You can get involved by writing thank you letters to include in the packs, making a financial contribution to offset the cost of supplies, or by donating items to include in the Family Packs. Examples of items include the following:
- Table Topics games
- Family board games
- DVDs (appropriate for young family viewing) & popcorn
- Blank photo albums
- Mini scrapbook kits and supplies
- Blank journals
- Playing cards
- Travel-size games
- Flying disks
- Badminton combo pack
- Passes to the zoo, museums, etc.
- Gift Certificates/Gift Cards