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Youth Center gets grant for pilot project

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- A $10, 000 check was presented Sept. 3 to the R.P. Lee Youth Center for staff training and equipment to utilize a new online gaming tool targeting military youth deal with unique issues they face daily.
Peterson is one of only five military bases in the U.S. selected to participate in the pilot program.

The funds were awarded by the Boys and Girls Clubs of America as part of a $1.75 million grant from United Health Foundation to fund a Resiliency and Reintegration Initiative for Military Youth. The tool aims to help youth who are not actively connected to a facility said Terrill McFarland, National Vice President Military & Outreach Services of the BGCA.

"We are very excited. It will help us do cool things and be a part of something new," said Chett Kline, chief of Airmen and Family Services flight at Peterson Air Force Base. "We are glad Peterson kids have an opportunity to help build something that will help military kids around the world."

Kevin McCartney, Senior VP, Government Relations for BGCA, said there are about two million children who have military parents. Of those roughly a quarter of a million have parents currently deployed; 75 thousand of those have parents who have deployed multiple times. McCartney added that military youth move, on average, between six and nine times, a high percentage of those are not located on any installation.

"That's where we can help," he said. "They have special challenges and that's where we come in."

Following the pilot year another 10 locations will be selected for a roll out of the initiative. Eventually McCartney said 30,000 are expected to participate in the program. The initial five locations along with Peterson AFB are Naval Air Station Jacksonville, Fla., Cumberland County Boys and Girls Club, N.C., Ft. Drum, N.Y., and The Boys and Girls Clubs of San Antonio, Tx.

The initiative focuses on resources to help military youth cope with and flourish when facing the unique pressures associated with being military youth. McFarland said the BGCA identified the need for military youth to have tools available to them that were not tied to a particular facility. That led to talks in 2014 with United Health Foundation concerning developing the tool to help kids.

In the opinion of United Healthcare Senior Medical Director for Military and Veterans Dr. John Williams, Sr., making a grant to the BGCA for this initiative was a no brainer. The United Health Foundation funds non-profit, community based organizations whose charter is to improve health and community well-being. Providing resources for military youth in an innovative way is something the Foundation can support to provide healthy means to benefit the military family community.

In 2014 UnitedHealth Groups total giving reached $53 million. United Healthcare Military & Veterans, donated to more than 50 military and veteran service organizations in 2014.
Using Internet games, bulletin boards, chat features and other online options Williams said opportunities become available to youth who are not part of a big city or base, but face the same challenges.

The BGCA is working with the Institute of Play to develop the online resources. The Institute is known for creating learning experiences rooted in the principles of game design. McFarland said the game/online resources are slated to be ready in the first part of 2016.

"It's a game, but they will be learning skills about resiliency and reintegration," McFarland said There is no name for the online tool at this point, but one will be decided soon. Evaluation of the tool will be conducted by Clemson University.

Peterson SFB Schriever SFBCheyenne Mountain SFSThule AB New Boston SFS Kaena Point SFS Maui