I was 11 years old when my father was deployed to Afghanistan. There are no words to really explain the sight of seeing my dad leaving us to go to war; just remembering it sends chills down my spine. I would go to bed and thoughts would creep into my mind at night that he might not come home. It’s hard to recall the look on my 5-year-old sister’s face and the sound of her crying when it hit her that our dad was really leaving. My parents realized how much stress this deployment put on the both of us. So they decided we should take a situation full of such fear, stress, and sadness and make it as positive as possible. We were not able to change our circumstances, but we were able to change our views. For that year, my parents let my little sister and I live out a dream.
Since I was five, all I wanted to do was be an actress. I was certain that I was going to be the next Disney Channel star. But never would I imagine that only six years later, my mom would sign both my sister and I up for acting classes, even fly us from Texas all the way to Los Angeles to meet with managers, agents, and go out on auditions. Acting has been the best escape since day one. My little sister and I grew out of our shells, got pushed out of our comfort zones, and loved every second of it. After a few acting classes, I started to wonder why other Military Brats like me can't have an opportunity to live out their dreams like I did.
One day we received a phone call from my dad that a soldier he was deployed with, CPT Rob Yllescas, was injured by an IED (Improvised Explosive Device). Eventually we found that he had passed away and left behind two beautiful girls, Julia and Eva. I knew immediately I wanted to do something for them. So I sent them to the "Happiest Place On Earth," Disneyland. I raised up the funds to send them on a 4 night and 5 day trip. I received pictures back and after seeing how happy they were I knew I wanted to keep doing this. So I told my mom that I believe every military kid who is facing something like this should be able to live out a dream of theirs. They deserved to have a distraction and escape like my sister and I did. Whether it is pursuing a career, meeting a celebrity, being trained by an NFL player, or even just going on a vacation with their family. No dream is too big or too small.
From there, Brat Pack 11 was formed. In the simplest terms, BP11 grants wishes to military kids of wounded and fallen soldiers.There are a lot of struggles and sacrifices all military kids and their families face that others don’t see or realize. For example, constantly moving and being the new kid in school. I attended over twelve schools throughout my childhood, and let me tell you, it never got easier. The worry of having a parent deployed and not knowing if they will come home is a daily stress. And, sadly, some soldiers (and their families) pay the ultimate price for our freedoms. I wanted to show these military kids and families that there was a community that cared about them and that we have not forgotten their sacrifice, not for a moment.
I’ve been working on BP11 for many years, and it has been a project very close to my heart. From the very beginning, it was a struggle to have my voice heard and for my vision to become a reality. Having adults take me seriously enough to support me and buy into my vision has been the biggest challenge. I remember making calls and getting laughed at or dismissed as though I was too young to realize that I was biting off more than I could chew. I think these adults thought I was too small to make a difference in the world. I am glad to prove them wrong. My favorite quote is from Anita Roddick: “If you think you’re too small to have an impact, try going to bed with a mosquito in the room.” There is never a perfect age or time for you to live out your dreams. You just have to see it and go for it. No matter how old you are, you can accomplish anything if you have the tenacity and passion driving you. You should never doubt yourself — or others. We are all capable of changing this world for the better. But I would like to take the time to thank those who DID and DO support Brat Pack 11. Such as, Operation Homefront, KSON San Diego Radio, Happy Madison Productions, our amazing Board Members, and our insanely talented Ambassadors! Oh, and of course my amazing parents! I am truly grateful for all the love and support Brat Pack 11 continues to receive everyday. I couldn't have formed Brat Pack 11 without it.
Brat Pack 11