Press Room


January 31, 2003 / The Miami Herald

Giving Guardsmen a hand
Nonprofit aims to ease burden of active duty

A Lighthouse Point accountant woke up with an idea, and a week later he has corporate help, a website and a plan: $25 gift certificates for the children of National Guardsmen and reservists for every month their caregiver is called up for active duty.

Each child in a household will be eligible for one gift certificate every month. But the new, nonprofit organization, which now serves only Broward, Miami-Dade, Palm Beach and Monroe counties, will need private donations and further corporate help to make this work.

''To many of us, $25 is nothing. But to someone who's trying to make it until the end of the month without having to cancel a dance lesson or put off a haircut, it could make all the difference,'' said John Ghee, who was in Pembroke Pines on Thursday speaking to a military support group about Operation Brave Kids. ``We want the family and the soldier to know the community is behind them.''

Here's how Ghee says it will work: Families will register and list what businesses or other services they use. Operation Brave Kids then will work with those businesses to have a gift certificate issued. Wachovia Bank will have registration forms at their branches in Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade counties, and Coldwell Banker offices are handling it in Monroe.

It's during the negotiations for certificates that Ghee hopes the companies will pitch in. And if they don't, he thinks private contributions will make up the difference. Ghee said one Monroe County man has said he'll sponsor all the eligible kids in that county.

Ghee stresses that his organization isn't collecting goods. When it requests the certificates, he hopes the companies will help with that cost. But he's not looking for, say, a crate of toys or some other bulk donation. ''We want to leave this [choice] up to the families,'' he said.

For Ghee, Operation Brave Kids is also about boosting service members' morale. The Army veteran remembers what it was like to leave his wife and two small children when he fought in Vietnam.

''If someone had told me there was a program like this for my family, when my wife was facing the last week of the month without any money,'' he said, ``it would have made me feel that much better.''


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