One toddler helped inspire a company that now helps hundreds of military children deal with one of the most stressful times of their lives: seeing their parents leave for deployment.
“It doesn’t have to be sad,” said Bridget Platt, the founder and CEO of Daddy’s Deployed and wife of a Marine Corps aviator. “And that’s what I wanted to do. Create this story where [kids] are the star even if their family is separated at the time.”
Founded in 2012, Platt’s company creates custom-designed children’s books that explain where mom or dad are going, what they’ll be doing, and how they’ll stay in touch through tools like Skype. The first book she ever created was for her own daughter, with pictures of the family literally cut out and glued onto the pages.
But her inspiration came three years before, while working with a two-year-old girl named Claire at the child development center on Naval Air Station Whidbey Island, Wash.
“She was perfectly behaved, would eat every meal, play outside, and she shared. She was potty-trained and would nap everyday,” Platt said. “And then her dad deployed and all of that changed. She started having accidents. She wouldn’t eat. She would literally cry out for him at naptime. And I remember thinking that somebody has to do something to help these kids but I was just too far from it at that point. We were newlyweds. We didn’t have any children so I couldn’t wrap my head around what that concept might be.”
Once she had her own children, and with the help of her brother — a Harvard Business School graduate — she put together a business plan, copyrighted a logo, and brought on a great illustrator to help with creating the book’s artwork.
Now, parents can go on the Daddy’s Deployed website (there’s a Mommy’s version as well) and order their books, after putting in their information such as their name and rank, branch of service, what kind of job they have, and their children’s names. In about three weeks, Platt and her team will send back a personalized book with the family drawn into their own story.
“The whole point of it is that when the kids open page one they see their family in the story,” Platt said. “They see themselves in the story. They see their dog in the story. So that they know that it’s this happy, brightly colored vision of what their life could be or is going to be.”
Beyond the custom books relating to deployments, Platt told We Are The Mighty she has plans to expand her offerings. The company recently launched a book about military moves, and it is currently looking into selling eBooks and other interactive materials, such as audiobooks where the deployed parent can read the story to their loved ones.
“My favorite thing is when people first look at the book that didn’t know about the company beforehand,” she said. “The most common thing that is said to me is, ‘why didn’t I think of this?’ And that shows me that there was a problem and we are answering it. And that is the best thing. My response is always the same: ‘I’m really glad you didn’t.’ But in my mind I’m like, ‘Yes! Thank you for saying that.'”