At what age can young people make positive change in their community? 23? 15? 10?
What about 5 years old?
Tyler Stallings is living proof that young kids can make a big impact. He just needs a little help from his mom.
Recently five years old, Tyler is working to give back to veterans in his community.
“He asked me what the government is doing about veterans,” his mom, Andrea Blackstone, told Parent Toolkit. “He’s a child of a veteran, and so am I. He would ask, “Why is this happening to them? Why are some living on the streets?”
While they’re difficult questions to answer, Andrea did help channel his curiosity into a project Tyler is excited about: helping veterans.
Tyler is currently raising money to purchase a computer for a transitional veterans’ home in Maryland, so the vets can use the computer to aid in job searches, and prepare for life after the home. He plans to donate it during Christmas this year.
But this isn’t the first time Tyler is giving back to veterans.
Last year, Tyler launched his own veterans appreciation day and project called, Give Back to Veterans Day, on March 26th. He organized donations and fundraisers to make hygiene and grooming kits and brought them to veterans and a transitional home in his community.
“Last year we went to DC, where they were already having a veterans event, and dropped off boxes of shampoo, razors, toothbrushes, combs, etc. We also visited a transitional home for veterans, with six men currently living there. We made individual baskets for each of them with supplies,” Andrea said.
Tyler gathering supplies to donate to veterans
To help raise money to continue those gifts, Tyler is using his business skills. But how exactly does a 5-year-old have business skills?
With the help and guidance of his mom, of course. When Tyler was four, he created his own business, KidTime Enterprises, LLC. Tyler used his business to publish a book in July about his bedtime travel adventures. He is setting aside some of the proceeds of each book he sells to purchase the computer he hopes to donate.
Tyler with his published book and business card
“I think sometimes kids with ideas get overlooked,” Andrea said. “I wanted to show people that there are some kids who are business motivated, and learning and doing these different imaginative things. I also wanted to highlight the importance of community involvement for Tyler.”
The main goal of Tyler’s business is to empower him to make a difference, spread meaningful messages, and create partnerships in his community, says his mom.
“It’s an extreme sacrifice of time, energy, resources. However, I believe my child is worth it,” Andrea said. “I’m trying to send a message to the world, policy makers, educators, and other parents to let them know that children need to have someone to stand up for them. We don’t need to wait. If they have an interest, we need to help them foster that and give back to their communities.”
Tyler also wrote a letter to Governor Larry Hogan of Maryland, asking what he was doing about veteran’s issues and sharing his own efforts. He received a letter and a certificate from the governor for his interest in community involvement at a young age.
“His face lights up. When he saw his box of books [after printing] and said, “Wow!” When the governor encourages him. When the veterans thank him. That’s what makes it all worth it,” Andrea said.
Tyler with letter from Governor at a veteran's memorial
Tyler is involved in everything in the business, from brainstorming ideas to attending meetings. With the help of their book printer, DiscoverBooks, Tyler donated over 1,500 books to kids in Maryland who needed more of them at home.
“He’s my little CEO,” Andrea said. “I call him an honorary CEO, because obviously we couldn’t put him on the paperwork. But he makes decisions and attends every single meeting. It’s my promise as a parent to include him in the process.”
In fact, he was the one who suggested that he should get business cards. He went through his first 1,000 cards quickly, going up to people and telling them about his veteran projects.
“We need to challenge young boys to be good citizens too. We can influence kids at a young age,” Andrea said. “I think it’s very important to instill these values now. It’s a very formative time in his life and his experiences are shaping how he sees the world, what he wants to do, how he sees people.”
Andrea is continuing to work this year to support Tyler in all his endeavors. Andrea and Tyler recently submitted a Goal To Be Greater to the Parent Toolkit about Andrea’s effort to work with the school and the community to help Tyler succeed and give back.
“I told him I’ll always be his supporter,” Andrea said. “I’ll do whatever I can because I believe in you.”
**All photos courtesy of Andrea Blackstone.