An Iraq War veteran who helped establish an organization that serves the needs of returning service members and their families is promoting a new program that deals specifically with their children.
Chris Kreiger, an Army veteran who co-founded WNY Heroes in 2007, was seriously injured in a roadside bombing just two weeks before his scheduled return home in 2004. The organization helps provide access to essential services, financial assistance and resources.
Kids Are Heroes Too!, a program launched this year by WNY Heroes and the Niagara Frontier Automobile Dealers Association, is intended for children of combat veterans.
"They suffer just as much," said Kreiger, a Town of Tonawanda resident whose family lost their Niagara County home because of delays in receiving his disability pension. "No one really focuses in on the family."
Kreiger's appearance before the Tonawanda Town Board on Monday coincided with a vote by lawmakers to offer free and reduced-price recreation programs to the children of disabled veterans.
Kids Are Heroes Too! provides grants, up to $250 a year, for local recreation or extracurricular activities. Grants would pay for things such as sports uniforms, musical instruments, dance or gymnastic lessons, among others.
Similarly, the Town Board voted Monday night to offer children of disabled veterans in the Ken-Ton community free or reduced admission to programs organized by the town's Youth, Parks & Recreation Department.
The Town of Tonawanda Football Association and Ken-Ton Soccer also are waiving fees, according to Councilman Daniel J. Crangle, chairman of the Town Board's Youth, Parks & Recreation Committee.
"The families sometimes don't have the money when these veterans come back," Crangle said.
Under the resolution adopted Monday, the Youth, Parks & Recreation 2012 fee schedule was amended to waive the fees for special events, programs and league registrations for children, under age 18, of resident disabled veterans.
Fees for Aquatic and Fitness Center memberships and golf season passes are reduced by 50 percent.
Crangle said he and Kreiger had met months ago. Monday was Kreiger's first appearance before a municipal body to promote WNY Kids Are Heroes Too!; he said he's scheduled to appear before Niagara County officials early next month.
"I'm going to see if I can push this statewide and make New York State the first one," Kreiger said.