During a high-stress time, it’s natural to look for comfort and safety in the familiar—our home, our family, even our daily routines. For kids who are missing a parent, the emotional stress caused by the COVID-19 crisis can be overwhelming. The OK Messages Project is one nonprofit that uses creative ways to connect kids with their parents who are separated by incarceration.

In normal times, the OK Messages Project films parents in 12 different prison facilities around Oklahoma. The incarcerated parent reads books and shares positive messages with their kids. This past fall, for example, the nonprofit filmed hundreds of Christmas videos in prisons across the state. The program provides a bridge between parent and child, and in some cases, the only interaction a child will have with their parent in prison.

“Many don’t realize how crucial it is, in these already precarious times, to keep building bridges and connections with these children and families—and let them know they are seen, heard, and valued,” OK Messages program assistant Ali Plum wrote to us. “We will continue to do whatever it takes to help mitigate the damages and trauma of the separation they are living through.”

With prison facilities now on lockdown, the nonprofit can no longer film, but they still want to show these kids that they are not forgotten. So they launched Stories and Smiles, in which they send a book donated from a special Amazon Wishlist to a child whose parent was signed up to be filmed this spring. Each book comes with an encouraging letter.

Some of their kids have been receiving DVDs of their parents since they were very little. You can help them continue this tradition by sponsoring a child for $150 a year—which pays for two packages of DVDs of the parent reading, plus the book—or by donating $10 for one book. Donate here.


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