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Children Lead the Way in Honoring and Empowering Veterans

Nov. 20 is World Children’s Day. The day is a serious one, marking the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, which ratified international human rights for children in 1989. We are marking this important day by paying tribute to the countless children who advocate on behalf of our nation’s wounded warriors every year. Their cards, letters and donations always humble and inspire us.

Here are outstanding examples of children who have gone above and beyond for veterans:

No Presents, Please
Charlie Molito did not want presents for his birthday. Instead, the almost 7-year-old told his parents he wanted to ask for donations to give to a “wounded soldier.”

His mom, Sarah, searched for a good way to channel a donation and make the experience memorable for Charlie.

“One of my friends had been across from a Wounded Warrior Project booth at the state fair,” Sarah said. “Our family had donated to Wounded Warrior Project in the past. I wondered if they would allow my son to meet a representative.”

Charlie soon shook hands with Dan Hanson, Marine veteran and WWP outreach specialist in Minneapolis, who connected Charlie and family to Military Appreciation Day at a Minnesota Twins game.

“Charlie went crazy when he found out we were going to get to go to the Twins game,” Sarah said. “Baseball is his favorite sport. I cannot explain how excited he was.”

Alongside his family and friends, Charlie presented a check to WWP during that Twins game. He collected more than $2,600 from his birthday celebration and Facebook fundraiser. Everyone shared the excitement of his accomplishment.

Sarah said attending that game in September 2021 was a memorable experience for the whole family. She shared that her dad, and Charlie’s maternal grandfather, was a Vietnam-era veteran who passed away a few years ago from complications of toxic exposure to Agent Orange. She couldn’t help but feel Charlie had opened a connection to her dad.

Charlie’s younger brother said he wants to do a similar fundraiser for his next birthday. It might be a tough act to follow.

“It was an amazing day,” Dan said. “Everyone was blown away by Charlie’s generosity.” 

A Recipe for Veteran Support 

Nothing says summertime like a lemonade stand. Twin siblings Grayson and Kennedy Koop doubled the fundraising fun while selling lemonade at the local Elks Lodge in Oregon. With help from their grandfather, and support from parents and friends, the 7-year-olds raised $1,200 to help veterans access mental and physical health services through WWP.

“We believe the twins taught themselves the power of selecting a goal and bringing community and family together on this journey to help wounded warriors,” grandmother Bonnie Houlihan said.

“The sheer joy of accomplishment on their faces when they filled in the dollar amounts on checks sent to Wounded Warrior Project was priceless to us as grandparents,” said grandfather Mike Houlihan.Mike, himself a veteran, rolled up his sleeves to help the twins collect cans and turn them in for cash to pay for the permit for the twins’ lemonade stand.

“They remind all of us that warriors come in all ages and sizes,” Mike said.

The parents received a gratitude package from WWP, which they read to Grayson and Kennedy in front of neighbors and community friends. Even the mayor of their town presented them with stars from a flag that was flown over the U.S. Capitol.

“You don't often see such young kids see outside of themselves,” father Josh Koop said. “Watching our twins actually do this and put the effort into helping creates such pride in who they are becoming."    

Zachary Teaches Others to Pay It Forward

Fifth-grader Zachary Dina read a book his mom brought him titled, Pay it Forward, by Catherine Ryan Hyde. In it, a boy is given a class assignment to make the world a better place. That story, shared between mother and son, had a lasting impact.

“My son has set out on several missions to pay it forward,” mom Melanie said.

Over the summer, Zachary devised a plan to earn money and purchase a rose for each worker at his elementary school, including teachers, staff, custodians, and cafeteria workers. He personally handed them out and said thank you during the school’s open house at the beginning of the school year.

“It made such an impact on the school,” Melanie said.

A local newspaper in New York wrote an article about his mission. Zachary’s next project was putting together packages and letters to send to some of our brave heroes for Veterans Day. And to celebrate his November birthday, instead of gifts for himself, he decided to raise funds for WWP.

“He wants to help support our brave soldiers because we live in the land of the free only because of our brave,” Melanie said. “One of his inspirational teachers told him, ‘Have courage and be kind,’ and he tries to follow those very wise words!”

Zachary is excited to share his birthday with veterans. When asked why he wanted to support veterans with a birthday fundraiser, he said:

"I am proud to be an American. I respect all our brave soldiers who fought for our country. We have what we have because of our brave soldiers. I wanted to do something for them to show how much everything they have done means. I wanted to tell them thank you for being a hero."

The local American Legion even asked Zachary to say a few words to local veterans at their Veterans Day ceremony.

We thank all of the amazing kids who support WWP’s mission to help veterans. Find out how you can get involved.

And learn how you can empower the students in your life to recognize the service and sacrifice of military servicemen and women through Honor Their Courage, a school curriculum that empowers students to honor veterans.

Contact: Raquel Rivas — Public Relations, rrivas@woundedwarriorproject.org, 904.426.9783

About Wounded Warrior Project
Since 2003, Wounded Warrior Project® (WWP) has been meeting the growing needs of warriors, their families, and caregivers — helping them achieve their highest ambition. Learn more.