American Legion honors local youth with Good Deed awards, supports military children on Purple Up Day


American Legion State Chairs for Children and Youth Sue Johnson and Dave Johnson received a proclamation that was read by Rockton Village President, John Peterson, at the April 2, 2024 meeting.

Children are recognized by the American Legion during the entire month of April, but find ways to lift them up year round.

Sue Johnson, with the American Legion Post #332 Auxiliary in Rockton, Illinois, serves as the State Chair for Children and Youth.

Last year three local youth were chosen to receive Good Deed Awards. These awards were established in 2002 by the American Legion's national children and youth commission. Youth who earn this honor are recognized for their heroism and helpfulness.

Nathan Schmidt collected 170 pairs of "Second Chance "sports shoes to help other youth who need them, but might have no means of getting what they need. He was one of three who earned a "Good Deed Award."

With the help of his mom and friends, Nathan Schmidt organized the Second Chance Sports Shoes collection where he collected 170 pairs of shoes. This was part of his National Junior Honor Society project at Stephen Mack Middle School.

His mission: giving gently used sports shoes a second chance to play. The purpose is to provide kids with shoes they may need to stay active, to help parents save money, and gives people in the community an opportunity to be involved. Another bonus comes in the fact that reusing is a form of recycling that reduces landfill space.

Olivia Walker headed up a school supply, hygiene and snack collection in support of 16:49, an organization that offers support for homeless teens. This project was one that earned her a "Good Deed Award" from the American Legion, Post #332 Ladies Auxiliary in 2023.

Olivia Walker is a member of the National Junior Honor Society at Stephen Mack Middle School. Walker headed up a school supply, hygiene and snack collection in support of 16:49, an organization that offers support for homeless teens.

Walker placed bins at DeeDee's Coffee and Decor, the Stateline YMCA and at the Bootcamp Academy in Roscoe. She collected 10 backpacks full of supplies, two boxes of hygiene items, snacks and cash donations totaling $100.

Aundrianna Wilson was presented with a "Good Deed Award" from Rockton American Legion, Post #332 Ladies Auxiliary President, Nicole Walker and Legion State Chair for Children and Youth, Sue Johnson.

Audrianna Wilson created and sold bracelets to donate to St. Jude's Children's Research Hospital. She told WIFR's Morning Blend that she began making them when she was five or six years old. Seeing a child on TV who had no hair, she asked her mother why. She decided she would donate her hair to help children with cancer. Later she switched to making bracelets because, she said, "That's better than hair." By the time she was ten, she had made more than one thousand.

A proclamation was read at the April 2, 2024 Village of Rockton Board meeting.

Dave Johnson, American Legion State Chairmen for Children and Youth, outlined the importance of supporting military children.

Johnson said, “I am a veteran, I served as a Marine and was a military child... As you serve you move to different positions and it is tough on the children, sometimes a parent is transferred to different bases,” Johnson said. “I submitted a proclamation to honor military children and we thank you for acknowledging our military children.”

Legion State Chairs for Children and Youth Sue Johnson and Dave Johnson received a proclamation that was read into action by Rockton Village President, John Peterson at the April 2, 2024 meeting.

Village President John Peterson read the proclamation: 

The American Legion, since its founding in 1919 has devoted much of its talent, effort and resources to improving conditions for our nation's youth, and The Americanism, children and youth programs of the American Legion provide settings that permit children to realize and to achieve their full potential, and The American Legion, and American Legion Auxiliary have labored unselfishly to achieve this goal through their untiring efforts, dedicated leadership and devotion to overriding principles of the benevolent programs.

The color purple represents all military colors combined. Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard and Space Force are blue, Marines are red, and Army is green.

The proclamation requested that all communities honor military children by wearing purple on April 15, 2024.

Roscoe Village President Carol Gustafston is also backing the Purple Up proclamation. A resolution supporting the proclamation was introduced by the South Beloit City Council as well.

Another program that is part of Children and Youth is called, “Kids of the Deployed Are Heroes Too.”

Anyone who has any immediate family that has served our country is welcome to join the American Legion. Yearly dues are paid after membership is approved. Eligible members also may qualify to receive emergency funds to help cover expenses.

The Johnsons, along with the Sons of the Legion, Legion Riders, and the Department President help with and contribute to summer and winter Special Olympics games in different ways. Legion members extend a helping hand through either monetary donations or snacks for the athletes. Every year the games have a different theme.

The Sons of the Legion are one of a true family tree. Each has a father or grandfather who has served our country.

The Riders are the Legion's motorcycle hub. They donate money to help veterans and support the food pantry by purchasing Christmas gifts to give to children who would not otherwise receive them.

Legionnaires, Sons of the Legion, the Riders and the Ladies Auxiliary give back million dollars per year to honor the legacy: helping kids go on to college whose parent is on active duty combat or has been killed in action.

The Legion gives out yearly scholarships to deserving Hononegah High School seniors. Extra scholarships are awarded in the amount of $1,000 to those in their junior or senior year of a nursing program. Sophomores or juniors who are planning to teach special education may qualify for a $1,000 scholarship.

Students may also participate in the Legion's essay program about our government. Youth from Illinois have won the national competition twice.

Girls State and Boys State programs fall under the umbrella of Americanism. These programs allow youth to have the experience of holding an office, and to learn the process of how things work in levels of government and politics, and how laws are made, while working with others. During the program, students are assigned into a fictional two party system to run for office and write legislation.

Students who participate might qualify to win a Samsung American Legion scholarship.

Recently, Legion member Gordie Justice Jr, donated “Good To Grow” cookies, each featuring different characters or super heroes to younger members.

Fundraisers are held to help make scholarships, donations and overall support of veterans possible .

The Ladies Auxiliary is hosting a spring craft and vendor fair on Sunday, April 28, 2024 from 1-4 p.m. at the American Center (American Legion) in Rockton. Shopper admission is $5 per person, which includes one free raffle ticket for a chance of winning something neat. In between shopping, grab something to eat. See what the Stateline has to offer, with all proceeds being used to help veterans. Money raised also will go toward growing and sustaining programs for children and youth.

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