Georgia youth bring positive change to military, veterans and their families
BY: Rachel Fasig
While most 7th graders may be concerned about what to wear to school, who they are asking to the dance, or what a celebrity just posted on Twitter; 13-year-old Riverwatch Middle School students Remington Youngblood and Grace Anne Carlson are more concerned about the well-being of soldiers overseas, whether or not a local veteran family has enough food for the holidays and where to organize their next fundraiser.
Remington is the Founder of Change4Georgia (C4G) – a nonprofit whose mission statement is “to provide the troops and their families with items of comfort and school supplies and to inspire students to get up and get involved!” C4G does this in three ways: 1) by sending non-perishable food, gifts and letters to those deployed overseas, 2) by providing food and other items of need such as clothing, diapers and school supplies to local veterans or active-duty families and 3) by providing scholarships to veterans in college. “It’s the least we can do!” said Remington, “They really deserve our thoughts, prayers and support and we are here to give them all three! It is a phenomenal feeling to be able to help them out.”
Remington’s family said that he has always had a compassionate heart and asked his mother at a young age how he could help others. She encouraged him to reach out to local soup kitchens and churches, but was turned down numerous times for “being too young and a possible liability.” Knowing it would be a lot of work and a huge time commitment, Remington decided to take matters into his own hands and started C4G. He was ten years old at the time!
Grace Anne was the first member of C4G’s Junior Executive Board. The organization now has about 30 students who are involved and seven youth leaders who sit on the Junior Executive Board alongside Grace Anne and Remington. The group researches, plans, organizes and implements large-scale fundraising activities from beginning to end. But, they make sure to have fun while doing it. “You should have seen us at the car wash, we were having a blast! And, we even got to wash a really cool Corvette!” Remington said. “We all hang out after meetings and on weekends, we’re all friends,” Grace Anne added.
And, this group of middle school friends has raised over $86,000 to date!
Remington hopes to inspire other youth to join him, “I want to show them all the fun they can have while helping others…I know once they get involved, they’ll love it!” Remington’s mother, Rebecca Youngblood, acknowledged how much the community has embraced and supported the kids of C4G. The Fresh Market in Suwanee, led by General Manager Jim Healy, has donated over $20,000 worth of food and gift baskets for the cause; HoneyBaked Ham did a corporate drive and gave each of C4G’s veteran families a certificate for a baked ham; and Stephanie Morjan of The Home Depot in Buford will help Remington with whatever he needs. “One time, he called her and told her about a veteran family we were helping out in Forsyth County and she donated an air conditioner for them, no questions asked!” Rebecca Youngblood shared.
The work that these young adults are doing is inspiring. It is refreshing to see a group of uniquely talented and caring individuals using their time, energy and resources to help others. Remington hopes that C4G becomes the blueprint for future youth-led nonprofits. He said, “I hope there’s a Change4Kentucky, a Change4California, a Change4NorthCarolina…a Change for every State! One day when I grow up, I hope to still be a part of it…but in the background, I want kids to take it over and take on the leadership roles.” The purpose of the organization is that it’s youth-led, however, The Executive Board consists of a group of adults and parents who are dedicated to supporting the cause: Chris and Rebecca Youngblood (Remington’s parents), Paul Romanick an Army Veteran, Dan White and Aurea McGarry an award-winning talk show host and cancer survivor.
“We learn so much from each other and from our experiences,” Remington said. But, the kids of C4G have also had the opportunity to learn from and spend time with influential people, such as Governor Nathan Deal, John Yates and Lt. Governor Casey Cagle. The skills that they’re learning now are highly instrumental and will stick with them for the rest of their lives. “We are learning how to build a business, about networking, how to use social media, fundraising, marketing, public speaking, about how our government works.” Remington said. “And, I have definitely become a better speaker. I’ve learned social skills like how to communicate effectively, the importance of eye contact and a strong handshake,” added Grace Anne.
A very articulate young man, Remington has already spoken at over 70 speaking engagements, including Veterans Summits, Gainesville State College, Wreaths Across America, City Council Meetings, The VFW Post 9143, Teen Kids News, 11 Alive, CBS, Fox News and the keynote speech at the “Live Your Legacy” Summit to name a few.
But, the feeling that they get when helping others and “serving those who have served us” is more impactful than anything else, said Remington. Grace Anne hopes that these experiences shape her life from here on out, “I want it to always be part of who I am. I want to be proud of who I was in middle school. Most kids look back and don’t remember much about middle school, but I’ll get to look back and say, “I was a part of Change4Georgia and I got to help a lot of people,” she said.
Remington often says, “Success cannot be achieved by simply living. You have to act in order to achieve!” And through their actions, Remington and Grace Anne are hoping to create a legacy while inspiring other youth to follow in their footsteps. For more information about Change4Georgia and ways to get involved, please visit change4georgia.org.