Joelson was an active child playing multiple sports. His father, U.S. Army Staff Sergeant Roy Joel M., often served as his team’s coach. However, upon the passing of his father, Joelson abruptly quit all those athletic passions he shared with him. Joelson didn’t have the heart to play sports for nearly three years. In stepped Angels of America’s Fallen and gave Joelson a renewed interest in competing in sports through a simple swimming activity session.
From Joelson’s Mother: “(Joelson) enjoyed swimming so much that he asked me to sign him up for more. THANK YOU. You have no idea how much this means to me. His dad used to coach his teams, and the day that he died my oldest son quit all of the teams that we were on. He hadn’t played a sport in three years. So the fact that he asked me to sign him up for swim team is huge!! Please share this story with your donors because it may not seem like much but to us, it means the world.”
Today, there are more than 16,000 children in the United States who have lost a parent who volunteered to serve their country in the military or as a first responder. Most of the children are very young at the time of loss (average age – 7 years).
Statistics show that these children have a greater likelihood for depression, anxiety, poor academic performance, behavior problems, substance abuse, and even suicide. Angels of America’s Fallen mitigates these risks by providing regular opportunities for participation in extracurricular interest such as sports, fitness, art, music, theater and other activities. Research demonstrates that feeling connected and engaged with at least two areas outside of family such as school/afterschool activities, positive peers, athletics, employment, religion, culture and the arts is a protective factor that can mitigate the risks associated with parental loss. (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Adolescent Health, April 2016)
Our support comes at a time of great need for the children and the surviving parent. They often report experiencing shock and a “deer in the headlights” feeling after their loss, and we are there to assist them as they try to find a sense of stability and normalcy in their lives. As the surviving spouse struggles to keep the family emotionally and financially afloat, extracurricular activities that can be so beneficial to these at-risk children are often neglected. These surviving parents have so much on their plates that it can be difficult to sit down with their children to figure out the “what” and “how” of extracurricular activities.