Teen creates nonprofit for Gold Star kids

High school senior Leighanne Bryant (center) founded a nonprofit to support children of Gold Star families.

Credit: contributed

Credit: contributed

High school senior Leighanne Bryant (center) founded a nonprofit to support children of Gold Star families.

With a dad active in the Georgia State Defense Force, Leighanne Bryant has grown up around military kids. Volunteering for events that support those in service and their families has long been a part of her life.

Earlier this year, the Hillgrove High senior took her volunteering to a new level by launching a nonprofit to support children of Georgia’s Gold Star families – those who have lost a loved one in military service. Gold Star Kids Support Services was inspired by time she’d spent working with military children at Dobbins Air Reserve Base. It also meshed with her goal to earn a Girl Scout Gold Award that requires designing a meaningful and sustainable community service project.

The nonprofit provides financial assistance for activities such as cheer, band, clubs, sports and other extracurriculars. As her school’s student body president, a football and basketball cheerleader and a Girl Scout, Bryant knows not everyone can afford the expense of participating.

“When you lose a parent in combat, you lose a source of income as well,” she said. “I know how expensive extracurricular activities can be, and I saw a need for these kids to let their minds go to a positive place. These activities give a chance to do that.”

Bryant started funding those efforts with an event at her Powder Springs home that raised $1,600. But the program got its biggest boost a few weeks ago when she won $10,000 at the Be More-a-Thon competition at Georgia Tech. Bryant was one of 10 selected to take home grants for their nonprofits.

“I had to submit a video about the nonprofit then go in person and give a ‘Shark Tank’ style, three-minute pitch to an audience of about 500 people,” she said.

The prize will extend the list of activities Bryant has already funded. Among them were six months of karate lessons, sporting equipment and golf lessons. The recipients must be younger than 18 and can live anywhere in the U.S. Bryant often finds recipients through other Gold Star organizations and groups connected to the Georgia National Guard.

“And now we’re starting to branch out to more than just Gold Star families,” she said. “This Christmas we’re buying toys for three families. It’s a way to help more people.”

Bryant plans to keep the program going even when she heads to college next year with the goal of becoming a physical therapist.

“I’m not planning on going more than three hours away,” she said. “My father and the board members are involved, so it’s sustainable. And I will definitely be going to events.”

Information about Gold Star Kids Support Services is online at goldstarkss.org.


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