H.O.P.E. for children, new garden celebrates Month of the Military Child

  • Published
  • By Kisha Foster Johnson
  • Robins Public Affairs

April 1st brought no jokes, just fun for children at Robins Air Force Base, Georgia.

Celebrating Month of the Military Child got underway with some gardening.

The Integrated Resilience and Prevention Office dedicated a section of the H.O.P.E. Garden to military kids.

It’s called Children’s Heart of H.O.P.E. - Help is available; Opportunities exist; People care; Expect something good to happen.

“Sometimes kids who have parents in the service are dealing with issues and need an outlet,” said Donna Hunt, H.O.P.E Garden project coordinator. “Gardening activities can be used as therapy because there’s something about being out in nature that helps people feel better.”

And in nature, there is a flower that embodies the spirit and experiences of military children.

It’s the dandelion, which is also the official flower of MOTMC. This month honors children who have one or both parents serving in the armed forces.

Typically, dandelion seeds are blown far and wide, but still manage to plant roots wherever they land and then bloom.

Seven-year-old Jack Turpin knows a lot about moving. And he talked about his travels, after searching through an array of bright flowers to find one to plant.

“I’ve helped my mom plant before,” Jack said, as he tilled the soil with his fingers. “I like my new house a lot. I’m not thinking about moving right now.”

This is his fourth base.

“Hawaii was my favorite place, and I got to swim with a dolphin and play with it,” he said. “I have lived in Kentucky, Washington and Florida.”

Sharon Edgley, Jack’s grandmother, said her grandson has lived the longest at Robins.

“They have been here three years,” she said. “When he moved here, it was hard because he missed his friends in Kentucky. Up until that point, it didn’t affect him that much because he was young. He’s 7 and has lived in four states already. That’s a lot of moving for an adult. Imagine that for a child. So, this is a nice event to let these kids know they matter and that people care.”

Stuart Bapties, Team Robins Violence Prevention Integrator, said the children can tend and decorate their plot throughout the year.

“Studies show that children who have these positive childhood experiences have an easier time forming social connections and have better overall mental and physical health later in life,” he said.

Other activities included an inflatable bounce house, archery, and the chance to climb inside the vehicles used by the 5th Combat Communications Group and the Robins Fire Department.

Janice Williams believes sharing experiences like this with her grandchildren helps serve as a small distraction while their parents may be away.  

“These children, not just my grandkids, go through so much. They’re without their mom or dad for months at a time, and I think it is important that we as adults let them know they are loved. They never know when a loved one is going to be deployed,” said Williams.

For Jack’s grandmother, her desire is to help keep him grounded and resilient come what may.

“Being a military child, you get moved from base to base, state to state. He already has a different outlook on the world than most kids his age. I like that he sees the beauty of meeting new people and learning new cultures and embracing the now.”

And for her, Jack is a shining example of blooming where he is planted.