To five-year-old Dylan, Master Corporal Blake Lakewood is a superhero and the best father in the whole entire world.  Whenever Dylan needs him, he is always there. But on Sept. 17, 2019 MCpl. Lakewood was deployed.

Deployment was an unfamiliar concept for Dylan and brought up emotions that were difficult to express. But one day at school, a volunteer from Roots of Empathy, along with her baby, came to Dylan’s class.

Centered around developing a child’s ability to identify and express their feelings, Roots of Empathy places volunteer parents and their young child into classrooms on a weekly basis. Students then observe the baby’s development and emotions, and over time learn how to identify and express their own feelings.

Thanks to True Patriot Love’s funding, Roots of Empathy provided training to five staff from Military Family Resource Centres and school boards. They then replicated the program in schools where there is a large population of children from military and Veteran families. In total, True Patriot Love’s funding has helped 328 children.

On a week-to-week basis, Dylan observed baby Elizabeth and learned how she shares her feelings by crying or smiling. As the program progressed, Dylan learned how to identify, reflect and share how he was feeling about his dad being deployed. He used drawings to express his emotions with his teacher and classmates.

dylan drawing

“I was sad because my dad flew away to the dessert”

Studies show that children from military families experience double the rate of mental health issues compared to civilian children. These are gut-wrenching statistics, showing how the unique stresses of military life can sometimes affect a child. This is why it’s so important that Dylan and other children who are going through similar experiences have a safe space where they can identify and share their emotions.

Help True Patriot Love Foundation continue to fund programs like Roots of Empathy that create safe spaces for children like Dylan to express their feelings about the challenges of being in a military family.

Name has been changed to protect the privacy of the individual in this story.