Hilary Swank throws star power behind effort to help military kids

Actress Hilary Swank meets with Navy Petty Officer First Class Robert Nilson and family in New York.

Actress Hilary Swank meets with Navy Petty Officer First Class Robert Nilson and family in New York.

Since the war in Afghanistan began in 2001, more than 2 million American children have had a deployed parent, according to the “Military Children and Families” report conducted by Princeton University/Brookings (Fall 2013). This statistic got the attention of two-time Academy Award winner Hilary Swank, who is an Air Force brat herself, and she has added her name to the Duracell company’s support of the USO’s Comfort Crew for Military Kids program.

Somewhat by chance a Duracell market research team met a Navy family in San Diego who used one of the company’s products in a heart-warming way. “We were basically in the house of this family and we asked the daughter to show off her favorite toy,” brand manager Ramon Velutini said. “We were expecting regular toys — remote control cars and all this — and they came running with this battery-powered bear.”

“We were so inspired by this story, we wanted to share it,” said brand director Jeff Jarrett. “We realized just how difficult it is for these families to stay connected during a deployment. With their story of the teddy bear, they helped us understand the impact that a battery-powered bear could have on children—a way to hear Mom or Dad on command while they’re deployed, allowing them to always be there.”

Mackenzie Nilson, 3-year-old daughter of Navy Petty Officer First Class Robert Nilson and his wife Denise, stayed close to her father while he was deployed as an air traffic controller aboard a surface combatant by listening to his voice that he’d recorded into a stuffed bear before he left. The Duracell team recreated the sequence of events in a commercial produced just in time for July 4.

Watch the heart-warming commercial:


Actress Swank decided to share her support of the program because she can relate to having a military parent gone all the time; her father is a retired Air Force Senior Master Sergeant. The first time she saw the teddy bear ad she was immediately moved to help. “The young girl is going through a gamut of emotions,” she said. “It’s a reminder of the sacrifice of all of our troops as well as the unsung heroes — those left behind.”

Swank is proud of her father’s service and grateful that she has a sense of what the military is all about, something many Americans lack.

“In a military family everyone serves, especially the children,” she said. “It wasn’t easy for me when my father was away for many months at a time with the Air Force, but he always worked hard to stay connected with us through phone calls.”

Duracell is donating $100,000 to the USO’s Comfort Crew for Military Kids program which helps military children cope during their parent’s deployment. The program gives military children a safe, comfortable environment to explore, with their peers, the challenges of growing up in the military. The Comfort Crew for Military Kids program supports military children with the distribution of Comfort Kits, which gives military families the resources they need to tackle tough issues on the home front. In 2014, the USO distributed more than 15,000 kits .

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