Local military child gains national attention

Posted at 7:01 PM, Feb 23, 2016
and last updated 2016-02-23 22:01:04-05

Being a kid is tough, and it is even harder with a parent deployed.

A High Tech Middle School student is getting national attention for how she is handling it.

Isabelle Richards is in the running for Operation Homefront's Military Child of the Year award. There are five finalists from each branch, and her dad is in the Navy.

"I'm kind of a daddy's girl, so I love basically everything about my dad," she said.

James Richards, who is a Senior Chief Petty Officer, has served for nearly 23 years.

"There's always the guilt of not being home and supporting your family," he said. "The hardest thing for me is knowing that I can't be there, but I have an amazing wife."

He had deployed 10 times in the 11 years Isabelle has been alive. She guesses he has missed about half her life, but she seems fine with it.

"It was really easy because my mom was always there for me," Isabelle explained.

Her mom taught her to be strong and have confidence. In turn, she started the Dove Project, which empowers girls to love their bodies and be kind to others.

She said students used to separate in groups, and now they all hang out together.

Four years ago, she went to the Wounded Warrior Trials.

"I saw that there was no one cheering these people on," she said.

She made 200 cupcakes for them that night, and Cupcakes and Cards has grown. Last year she baked 800.

"I just want to make sure none of our wounded warriors get forgotten," she explained.

Isabelle sends sweets to dad when he is deployed, but he is not the only one.

"I have five older brothers and four are in the military," she said.

Last year, she said all were deployed at once and mom needed help.

She got really sick, and then she was on chemo," she added.

Her dad felt helpless.

"She's the biggest foundation in my life and always has been," James said of his wife with tears in his eyes.

Isabelle stepped up to care for her mom and give her all the right medicine at the right time.

James could not be more proud, because he knows his service would not be the same without that support.

The winners of the Military Child of the Year award will be announced in early March. They get $10,000, a laptop and a trip to Washington, D.C.