Most four-year-olds are preoccupied with snack time and scooting around, but Tyler Stallings is making time to help veterans struggling with homelessness.
The Maryland tot was watching videos with his mom Andrea Blackstone in order to learn about what some of his relatives who enlisted in the military had done. They came across a video focusing on homeless veterans, and Tyler had questions and concerns.
“He saw videos of veterans holding signs to no one responding to their cry for help and he thought this isn’t right. He didn’t like it,” Blackstone said. “He asked me, ‘If they’re heroes why should they be on the street?'”
Tyler initially wanted to build houses for the vets by purchasing hardware supplies. Instead, his mother contacted Gov. Larry Hogan, who gave Tyler a $100 grant to use.
Tyler put the $100 to good use — and now four years later, Tyler has helped raise more than $50,000 to help homeless veterans by using a GoFundMe page to get funds for his Hero Bags—care packages filled with essentials.
“When my mom said we couldn’t build homes for the veterans, I came up with an idea where we could give them Hero Bags,” Tyler said in an interview with GoFundMe. “The bags have clothes, shoes, snacks, toiletries, soap, a toothbrush, toothpaste, lotion, shaving gel, hand sanitizer—all the regular things people need.”
“It was supposed to be a one-time thing, but it turned into an all the time event,” Blackstone said.
But the compassionate kid didn’t just raise money — he also joined the Maryland Center for Veteran Education and Training in order to become an advocate and raise awareness about the struggles veterans encounter when their service is done.
“At first, it was hard for people to take a four-year-old seriously,” Blackstone said. “It took me a while to find a shelter that would let him come in and help. But when shelters like MCVET finally did, they loved having him there.”