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Gift of Grit: Isabelle Richards is the MCOY award winner for the Navy.

By Operation Homefront

April 16, 2018

Isabelle Richards knows what it means to be a part of a military family. Not only is she the daughter of Senior Chief Petty Officer James Richards and Lorraine Richards, she has five older brothers, four of whom have served on active duty.

Isabelle has embraced the opportunities and challenges of military life. “Military kids get a great gift when we are born into this life. My Dad and Mom always tell us we are giving you a gift of Grit,” she said. It is this grit and dedication that compelled us to select 13-year-old Isabelle as the 2018 Navy Military Child of the Year® Award recipient.

Having a front seat to the many ways that our young men and women serve, and the high costs that can be borne by them, Isabelle wanted to ensure that they never felt forgotten. She created a local call to action group/nonprofit called Cards and Cupcakes Supporting Our Wounded Warriors. Expanding the program from Southern California to the entire West Coast and Midwest, Isabelle’s organization sends homemade greeting cards and cupcakes to a segment of veterans she calls “healing heroes.” Students in schools across the country participate in her growing enterprise.

The countless hours she pours into Cards and Cupcakes pales in comparison to the contributions of wounded veterans, according to Isabelle, who lives by her own words. “When I am tired or feeling lazy, I remember what they sacrificed, and they never complain,” she said.

Isabelle carries her message of grit and determination to others, founding and running the Dove Self-Esteem project at her school. This year, she was chosen to be a peer mentor, a highly sought position, appointed by a teacher. Peer mentors help other students deal with crisis situations and encourages them to seek assistance. Isabelle did all of this while maintaining a 4.0 GPA on a 4.0 scale.

In addition to her passions, Isabelle spends double-digit hours every week in the dance studio. She aspires to be a professional ballerina but also use her passion for dance to help others learn to express themselves unconventionally.

Isabelle feels blessed to be a part of a military family. “I am the only girl and I have a Daddy and 4 older brothers who serve and protect our country, SO lucky is a huge way I feel. I am also extremely proud of my Daddy and brothers. I am the fan club president for all of them. We learned when we were young the importance of serving others. (Every day) and a lot of special moments are sacrificed by all of them and I am happy to shout it from our mountain that my Daddy and brothers are all proud military members.”

Her advice to other military kids: Embrace this great life we have. Don’t dwell on the negative, find the positive. Be the example to other military kids and help them learn about this crazy roller coaster life, remember how awesome it feels on the top of the ride when you have the wind blowing in your hair and share that feeling every day!

Isabelle is the daughter of Senior Chief Petty Officer James Richards and Lorraine Richards. Her youngest brother, James Nathaniel “Nate” Richards, won the 2012 Navy Military Child of the Year® Award.

See highlights from Isabelle’s long list of achievements:

Meet all of our seven Military Child of the Year® recipients and be sure to join us on Facebook on Thursday, April 19 at 7 pm EST for a live feed of the very special awards gala honoring our outstanding Military Child of the Year recipients. Thank you to our presenting sponsor United Technologies for making it possible. We’re also grateful to the following additional sponsors: Booz Allen Hamilton, Procter & Gamble, Microsoft, MidAtlantic Broadband, La Quinta Inn & Suites, Veterans United Home Loans, Under Armour, and Military Times. #MCOY2018

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