This is Part 1 of a 2-Part Series on nine-year-old Tyler Stallings. Part 2 of this series will be published next week.
When Tyler Stallings was four-years-old, his mother Andrea Blackstone showed him a YouTube video about veterans. “I wanted to show Tyler the importance of service and community helpers,” recalled Blackstone. “We are from a family of veterans, which includes my father and grandfather.” Reflecting back on his reaction after seeing the video, Tyler who is now nine-years-old said: “Seeing the homeless veterans made me really upset. When I saw the video, we didn’t anticipate my reaction to be this way, but it was. I told my mom, “‘I want to help these people.’ I wanted to build houses to help the vets.” Blackstone added, “Building houses was not practical for us.
We started with something that was practical after Tyler was awarded a $100.00 grant from an organization. After he helped veterans the first time, he kept wanting to do it.”
Tyler’s efforts have since grown into a movement that has raised over $110,000 to buy essentials for homeless, elderly, ill or disabled veterans through his “Give Back to Veterans” project. He has appeared on “Good Morning America,” “Little Big Shots,” and other shows. The talented youngster has helped veterans pay bills, fed those in crisis, and given away thousands of his “Hero Bags” to thank them. The Maryland Center for Veterans Education and Training (MCVET) was one of five stops made to deliver items to veterans through “Give Back to Veterans” as part of a holiday giving tour. “Tyler has always dreamed big,” said Blackstone. “Doing these tours has been some experience. I thought it was too big, but Tyler did not. He wanted to give more. I prayed about it, and out of the blue, GoFundMe contacted us. I was stunned.
When people started finding out about Tyler’s efforts, their giving allowed him to go on his first tour and have multiple stops.” Donors from all over the United States have supported the effort. Last year, over 200 Hero Bags and Hero Boxes were provided to elderly and homeless veterans over the Christmas holiday. Items included: toiletries; clothing; blankets; pajamas; toilet paper; paper towels; hats; coats; underclothes; thermometers; shields; alcohol; wipes; masks; and hand sanitizer.
Truckin 4 Troops, an organization which assists military servicemen and women and their families, facilitated transportation needs and deliveries for the tour. “I have felt blessed to be a part of it,” said Blackstone. “Tyler really wants people to receive the requested items. The COVID-19 pandemic has made the need greater. Non-profits are getting less support, but they really need it. It’s been a blessing we have been able to do it.” She added, “Navigating around the pandemic has also shown Tyler at a young age, how to work through obstacles. He learned that he might not be able to visit the veterans in person anymore because of the pandemic, but it didn’t have to stop him from leaving items to assist them. The pandemic has not stopped this effort at all.”
The homeschooled fourth grade student is a “2016 President Barack Obama Service Award” recipient. Tyler became a “GoFundMe Kid Hero” in December of 2018, and an “Orioles Birdland Community Hero” in April of 2019, because of his work with the homeless in Baltimore and other parts of Maryland.
Prior to relocating to Virginia, Tyler and his mother resided in Baltimore County. Tyler is an author, and donates a portion of the proceeds of everything he sells in his business to help fund his project. He was also instrumental in helping MCVET, which also provides short-term and long-term housing, to receive 250 new mattresses, and assistance from “Good Morning America” and Pepsi.
Cereta Spencer, is Director of Development and Community Engagement for MCVET. “I call Tyler our “Superhero at MCVET” and he calls me “Miss Cereta,” said Spencer. “He has brought national and international attention to MCVET.” She added, “The message to the world is that we need to start listening to children and if they have bright ideas, we need to give more love and positive energy. So many adults and kids can learn from nine-year-old Tyler Stallings. There are so many advocacy programs that need assistance. From Tyler we can learn that if you make your voice heard, you can easily change the world.”
Give Back to Veterans needs monetary donations, help with transporting donated goods, volunteers, and other assistance. To support Tyler Stallings and his Give Back to Veterans project, email [email protected]
Part 2 of this series will look at Tyler’s appearance on Little Big Shots, his recent scholarship donation to a veteran’s family, and his famous relative Alex Haley, author of ROOTS: The Saga of an American Family.