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Mentors can help local Gold Star Kids

Two-month (or longer) mentorship program and training program

Addison Newlove, left, of Bonney Lake, runs with her Gold Star youth mentor, 1st Lt. Eraina D’Ambrosio, during the 2017 Memorial Day wear blue: run to remember. JBLM PAO photo

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There are still a few months before the annual Memorial Day weekend wear blue: run to remember program, but now is the time for service members to step up and help local kids through a two-month (or longer) mentorship program and run training, the Gold Star Youth Mentorship Program.

The program, which is in partnership with Big Brothers-Big Sisters, matches young people with military mentors in order to not only help the kids prepare for the run, but also provide role models and keep the military connection alive, despite the loss of a military parent.

“The program is meant to empower youth, help them reclaim their lost identities as military children and to illuminate the life of their fallen parent by illuminating a life of service,” said Lisa Hallett, executive director of wear blue: run to remember program and a Gold Star Wife. “Our Gold Star youth need people and experiences to empower them on their journeys of healing.”

One Gold Star family currently benefiting from the program is the Newlove family, of Bonney Lake, Wash.

“It’s such a great program,” said Kimberly Newlove, whose 10-year-old daughter, Addison, joined the program last year.

Addison is matched with 1st Lt. Eraina D’Ambrosio, 109th Military Intelligence Battalion, 201st Expeditionary Military Intelligence Brigade. The two began their journey together about this time last year, and made such a great connection they continued the relationship throughout the year and plan to do so again this year.

D’Ambrosio said she’d heard about the Big Brothers -Big Sisters program while she was in the ROTC program at The Citadel, the Military College of South Carolina.

“I really wanted to participate but it just never worked out then,” she said.

D’Ambrosio said she is impressed with the process Big Brothers-Big Sisters uses to match up “bigs” with “littles.”

Her “little,” Addison, is very similar to her, she said.

“I put that I’m kind of tomboy, with a girly side, and have been into sports all of my life, and Addison is so much like me,” D’Ambrosio said. “We are so alike, it’s super awesome.”

After being matched up prior to the run, the duo decided they enjoyed each other’s companionship so much they continued in the program and, after the first 8 months, were allowed to spend one-on-one time together, going out for ice cream together and participating in activities, such as at an indoor jump and skydiving facility in the Renton area, D’Ambrosio said.

The match has been positive for Newlove as well. She said she enjoys watching her daughter and D’Ambrosio laugh together.

“It’s great Addison has such a great military role model,” Newlove said.

Newlove’s late-husband, Navy 2nd Class Petty officer Jarod Newlove, was a Reservist out of Everett, serving in Afghanistan when he was captured and killed by the Taliban July 28, 2010. He served more than 5 years in the active-duty Navy in San Diego before joining the Navy Reserve in June 2009.

He died five days before the couple’s son, Jordon, turned 1. Addison was then 3 years old.

Jordon, now 8 years old, also joined the Gold Star Youth Mentorship Program in 2017, and he will have a new mentor this year, his mom said.

Twenty-five additional service member mentors are needed for this year’s program.

Mentors must sign up by the end of February in order to allow time for the background screening process and a March 31program launch, according to Hallett.

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