America Supports You: Girl's 'Freedom Rocks' Raise Money for Troops
By Steven Donald Smith
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, June 21, 2005 Five-year-old Lydia Townsend, of Rockford, Mich., loves the troops and wants them to know it.
Lydia Townsend sells painted rocks at a booth outside of a Grand Rapids, Mich., warehouse store to raise money to purchase phone cards for troops stationed overseas. Courtesy photo
(Click photo for screen-resolution image)
To show her appreciation for their sacrifice, she has transformed ordinary rocks into "Freedom Rocks" by painting them with American flags.
"One day Lydia came in the house with some rocks and said she was going to paint the American flag on them," said Susan Townsend, Lydia's mother. "This project is Lydia's way of saying, 'Thank you for our freedom.'"
Lydia sells the rocks at various events to raise money to purchase phone cards for troops stationed overseas. She even helped set up a booth outside of a local warehouse store to sell her rocks, Susan said.
The 5-year-old also took $250 of the proceeds and paid for the production and installation of a billboard emblazoned with the "America Supports You" logo in the Grand Rapids, Mich., area. Viacom Outdoor in Grand Rapids generously donated the billboard space, Susan said.
America Supports You is a Defense Department program that highlights how Americans across the country are supporting the U.S. armed forces.
When Lydia first began her project, she used regular paintbrushes, but switched to paint pens to avoid the messiness of brushes. The pens are similar to magic markers but with real paint, Susan said.
"She does an outstanding job for a 5-year-old," she added.
Lydia's older sister, Christie, has also been involved in helping the troops. Christie wrote a poem for the troops entitled "America's Voice," and she helped launch a nonprofit organization called "Kid Expressed," which is dedicated to enabling kids to express their appreciation for U.S. military members and their families.
The organization has sent care packages and greeting cards to troops deployed around the globe, and it also put up a separate billboard featuring the America Supports You logo earlier this year.
"I am very happy that Lydia, like the rest of our children, is very thankful to the troops for giving and protecting our freedom. I do not believe that Lydia had any idea that the name she picked for her rocks was so perfect," Susan said.
When the Townsend family recently attended the Detroit air show, Lydia had several servicemembers in tears when she thanked them for their service and handed them Freedom Rocks, Susan said.
"I don't think that the $6,500 that Lydia raised for the phone cards or the billboard has been as meaningful to the troops as her Freedom Rocks," Susan said.