A Maryland boy has been disheartened by military veterans in need since he was 4 years old, and so far, has raised more than $50,000 to help as many as he can, one “hero bag” at a time.
Andrea Blackstone told “Good Morning America” her son, Tyler Stallings, stumbled upon a YouTube video focused on homeless veterans and felt compelled to help.
“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?'”
Initially, when Tyler wanted to build houses for the vets by purchasing supplies from a hardware store, Blackstone instead contacted Gov. Larry Hogan, who gave the boy a $100 grant to put to good use.
Tyler, she said, took the seed money along with proceeds from a GoFundMe link she shared on Facebook in an effort to supply necessary items such as clothes, bedding, and hygiene products to be delivered to those in need each Veterans Day.
Four years later, Tyler has raised more than $50,000 for his cause that now operates 365 days a year.
“It was supposed to be a one-time thing, but it turned into an all the time event,” Blackstone told GMA.
“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.”
In fact, a mattress company has recently donated 250 beds to the veterans’ shelter and another company has donated 250 backpacks for Tyler’s “hero bags.”
Blackstone said Tyler isn’t only helping veterans, but getting to know the veterans is helping her son as well.
“[The veterans] appreciated it so much. There are a lot of smiles and thank yous involved,” Blackstone said. “Tyler learns a lot about humanity and how to bond with people and be kind. I’m so proud of him being vocal and standing up for what he believes in.”
For Tyler, his work helping homeless veterans is both important and rewarding.
“They should have the things they need because of all the good thing they’ve done for our country,” Tyler said. “It makes me feel very happy and very good when they have a happy reaction.”
Tyler hopes to raises enough funds for a truck soon, so that he and his mother can use it to deliver even more items to the shelter in order to help more homeless veterans.