My 13-year-old son wanted to go to a $1,200 camp. It could change his life, but how could we afford it?
- Posted on Aug 2, 2016
My 13-year-old son Kurtis has always known that he would like to be a pilot for the Blue Angels one day. So when we learned about the National Flight Academy’s week-long flight simulation program from children in Pensacola, Florida, my husband and I knew that Kurt should go.
During the week, children learn about what life is like aboard an aircraft carrier and the simulations seemed well-worth the $1,200 price tag. But we worried about how to pay for it all. Since Kurt is eligible to begin flight lessons at age 14, (which can also be pretty costly), my husband and I figured it would be best that he attend the NFA’s program now to make sure this is really what he wants.
Though we received a small discount for being an active-duty military family, we didn't receive a scholarship to send him there. I figured I could pick up more freelance writing and virtual assistant work that I could do from home to raise the money. Then, my son came to me and asked if he could contribute his savings of $100.
I admit, at first, when he approached me wanting to help fund his own trip, I wasn't sure if it was appropriate for me to accept his help. As his parent, it is my job to provide for him. And then I realized that if I allowed my own insecurities to affect my decision on whether to allow him to help pay for this experience, I would actually be doing him a disservice. My husband and I decided that to allow him to work for something he wanted would show him the value of hard work. We also thought that if he felt like he had some “skin in the game” that he would appreciate and take this opportunity more seriously, as it’s unlikely we could afford to let him go to NFA more than once and also begin flight lessons.
From there, we collaborated with The Rosie Project, a company started by Jenny Felson and Kate Marsh Lord, two military spouses who started a T-shirt company with a military focused message and a goal of empowering other military spouses and families to thrive in their communities. They helped Kurt design his own T-shirts and then sell them on their website, and he got a commission from each one, raising $68. His T-shirt was inspired by the Tom Cruise movie Top Gun and had a jet with the quote, “You can be my wingman anytime.”
Once the warm weather hit, he also started mowing lawns in our neighborhood for $10 a lawn, and raised another $250. All the while, I shared his efforts on social media throughout the summer and friends and family sent us many positive comments, prayers, and a few even bought their own T-shirts that Kurt designed. In total, my son helped raise $418 towards his trip. A friend of the director of the NFA saw Kurt’s efforts on social media and donated another $100 to Kurt!
Kurt enjoyed his trip and wants to be a pilot more than ever. Best of all, our other son has become a part of our financial team at home and both of our boys love to work for what they want.
My husband and I have taught them to conserve, reuse, and recycle to help save money. We have also started them on a new savings plan where they put any $5 bill they randomly get directly into their savings account instead of spending it. They’re already researching summer camps for next summer, with the goal of saving enough to help us send both of them to cool camps next year. Now, they’re not only appreciating the opportunities they helped to create for themselves more, they also don’t take for granted what we do provide for them. They’re learning for themselves the true value of a dollar and we couldn’t be more proud.