The Kids Are All Right

The Kids Are All Right

Student-run nonprofit Youth for Troops aids veterans and active military

By Eric Newman

Six teens in the Anthem area frequently ran into each other
at volunteer events and activities supporting veterans, active military members
and their families, and figured they should maybe start working together.

So in early 2017, they got together to create a nonprofit
organization to consolidate their efforts, and “Youth for Troops” was born.

“Eventually people just kept saying that if you’ve got a
passion for it, you should start a nonprofit, and the kids listened. And in
2017 they became official, and it’s grown since,” says president Tonya Piatt,
who says she only has the role on paper and that the kids do almost all the
work.

Youth for Troops states its mission is “To inspire
patriotism in fellow youth and across generations by volunteering on behalf of
service members and veterans through community service, advocacy, and
education.”

The group meets on the third Tuesday of each month to construct
mats created out of cut-up plastic used as yarn that are easy to carry and
clean for long-term use. So far, Piatt says the group has handed out nearly 275
plastic mats to homeless veterans around Arizona, which they can use to sleep,
rest or even shower on.

Youth for Troops meets the second Monday of every month to
put together care packages for active troops around the world. On a given day,
dozens of people of all ages come, bearing daily essentials like toothpaste,
foot powder, sauce packets, shampoo, magazines and anything else that could
make the lives easier and more comfortable for troops serving our country.

“It really means a lot to them. They see how much the
military and veterans mean to our country, and this is just a way to show some
appreciation. A lot of them feel like it’s the least they can do,” Piatt says.

The group also goes to schools, community events, scout
meetings and truly anywhere they can get the word out, in order to recruit new
members, volunteers or donations to the cause.

Youth for Troops heads out to events such as the Anthem
Veterans Day Celebration and the Daisy Mountain Veterans Parade every November
to further its efforts. The group even has a booth set up daily at
Illumination: Symphony of Light in North Phoenix, which runs until the end of
December.

“We go into schools, and really everywhere, and bring
projects to share with everyone to see if they want to get involved or help in
any way. People from 0-120 years old can help out in activities and services,”
Piatt says.

Piatt says Youth for Troops always is looking for more
volunteers. However, something that frequently gets swept under the rug is
fundraising. The packed boxes are heavy, and the cost of actually sending the
boxes to troops can be hard to handle.

“We get so many supplies and so many people that want to
help with the shipping, but a big part maybe some don’t think about is the
shipping cost. It’s expensive to ship some of these boxes halfway around the
world, so our kids have to do a lot of fundraising. We want to keep getting out
and doing that as much as possible,” she says.

For more information or to register to volunteer at anupcoming event, go to youthfortroops.org or email Youth for Troops at youth4troops@gmail.com

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