American Legion grants connect military families, support art therapy
Kara Dallman, senior director of Development and Strategic Alliances at United Through Reading.

American Legion grants connect military families, support art therapy

Last year, the American Legion's Child Welfare Foundation (CWF) awarded $766,761 in grants to 24 nonprofits. Two of the grant recipients attended The American Legion’s National Children & Youth Conference in Indianapolis Sept. 22 to share their appreciation.

United Through Reading has connected military families who are separated for deployment or military assignment for the past 30 years by providing a bonding experience of shared story time. United Through Reading allows servicemembers to be video recorded at one of the 200 United Through Reading Story Stations around the world reading a storybook aloud to their child. The recording is reliable and repeatable; “we call it mommy or daddy on demand,” said Kara Dallman, senior director of Development and Strategic Alliances at United Through Reading.

Now, servicemembers don’t have to find a story station nearby for a recording; they can download the newly launched United Through Reading App on the App Store or Google Play. And thanks to a $24,875 grant from The American Legion Child Welfare Foundation, United Through Reading will be able to provide 5,000 free books to servicemembers who read through the app.

“The energy behind a book, the memories, the connections … that’s what we’re all about. What’s special about what you all are doing is you’re providing the books for those servicemembers,” Dallman said.

The app will allow servicemembers to use a physical book to read and record online, or offline, and then upload the recording for the child to view anytime and as many times as they want. The books chosen from the app will be delivered to doorsteps.

Dallman said United Through Reading conducted a study and found that 99 percent of users of its program reported an increase of connection to their children and 99 percent reported an increase in their child’s interest in reading and books.

“So what I’m saying is thank you very much. What you’re doing really makes a difference.”

Dallman also emphasized to conference attendees that the storybook reading is for all ages of children. One servicemember’s daughter was graduating from high school while he was deployed so he recorded “Oh, The Places You Will Go” by Dr. Seuss. The daughter ran to her bedroom after watching it and her mother thought she was upset. Instead, the daughter was calling all her friends to come over and watch the recording of her father reading to her.

The CWF provided a $6,714 grant to the St. Vincent Hospital Foundation to support its Peyton Manning Children’s Hospital healing arts program. The healing arts program launched hospital wide in late 2017 to provide holistic care to patients of all ages.

At Peyton Manning Children’s Hospital, “we really want to help these children be children so we don’t just want to care for their bodies, we want to care for their minds, we want to care for their spirit, we want to give them a space to play and to be children,” said Kaitlin Knapp, clinical programs manager at Peyton Manning Children’s Hospital and St. Vincent. “Your generosity allows us to take care of these patients beyond just their physical illness but the entire patient.”

Knapp said research has shown that children who participate in Peyton Manning Children’s Hospital creative arts therapy program, whether that therapy is art, music, dance or pet therapy, are going home sooner and using less pain medication.

“So with The American Legion Child Welfare Foundation support, we’re helping these kids play, experience less pain, go home earlier, take less medication and feel like a kid.”

The CWF grant also helped the hospital purchase a computer system that allows them to record the heartbeats of infants who will unfortunately not live. Music is added and a CD is created for the parents to take home and remember their child.

“Thank you so much for this generous donation and interests in helping kids because we have found creative arts therapy is a great way of helping our patients, more than just their physical needs but really thinking about a person holistically,” Knapp said. “Thank you for allowing us to provide this kind of care.”