What Is a BRATS Club?
A safe place for children of current and former active duty and reserve military personnel to gather, grow, and support each other through social, leadership, and community service activities. Adult BRATS Clubs include TCKs, as well, and focus on social and community activities.
A military brat is no better or worse than anyone else, but they do share a unique lifestyle, filled with experiences that sometime make them feel “different” – things like combat, deployments, and constant moves, the culture shock of shuffling between domestic and overseas assignments, and in and out of racially integrated military bases and less integrated civilian schools and neighborhoods.
Everyone knows a healthy tree needs roots to grow. These children, who attend 6-9 schools or more before they graduate from high school, don’t have geographically-based roots. Their roots are each other.
It’s not just about being part of a particular organization. It’s about being around other brats. For military kids and adult brats & TCKs, home can be a BWB BRATS Club!
To help those who have grown up in military families reach their full potential, socially and emotionally, in their homes, schools, jobs, and communities.
In 1998, Army Brat Donna Musil began making what would eventually become BRATS: Our Journey Home, the first documentary about the lifestyle and lifelong legacies of growing up in a military family. The film is narrated by Air Force Brat and Singer/Songwriter Kris Kristofferson, and features Army brats General H. Norman Schwarzkopf and Author Mary Edwards Wertsch, who wrote the ground-breaking 1991 non-fiction book that helped define the Military Brat Subculture and identity, Military Brats: Legacies of Childhood Inside the Fortress.
In the process of making the film, Donna noticed there were not many organizations that even recognized the existence of the Military Brat Subculture, much less acknowledged the service of its members or provided help when needed. So in 1999, Donna founded Brats Without Borders, Inc. (BWB), the first 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization to provide educational outreach, support, and research to enrich the lives of current and former Military “Brats” and Third Culture Kids (TCKs), and contribute to their mental, emotional, and spiritual welfare. One of BWB’s primary goals is to raise awareness of Military Brats and TCKs – their culture, their contributions, and the challenges they face as children and adults. (“Brat,” by the way, is not a pejorative word – it’s an historical reference to military children that began in England as far back as the 1700s. “TCK” refers to children who have grown up in multiple countries and cultures.)
As Donna toured the country with the BRATS film, she heard hundreds of children in different audiences express anxiety over the lack of support for and understanding of military children in their schools and neighborhoods. They felt isolated and alone. There was no way to identify who was or wasn’t a military kid in a civilian school.
After a crowded BRATS screening at the Virginia Beach Public Library, Donna met Marine Corps Brat Christy Plant McAnally, a local English teacher, and suggested she form a club for these kids. In 2010, Christy did just that! She formed the very first Brats Without Borders BRATS Club at Landstown Middle School in Virginia Beach, Virginia. Fifteen brats showed up for the first meeting. By 2011, the Landstown BRATS Club had outgrown its classroom and had to meet in the cafeteria. It soon became one of the most popular clubs in the school, with 50-75 regular attendees.
From 2013-2015, Christy left the classroom to act as Coordinator of the Military Connected Academic Support Program (MCASP) grant in Virginia Beach. While there, Christy opened three more elementary and middle school BWB BRATS Clubs and the first high school BRATS Club. She is now back in the classroom and heading up another middle school BRATS Club.
Meanwhile, Karlsruhe American High School alumnus Chris Kyrios thought - if the kids can do it, so can the adults! So he started the first BWB Colorado Brats Club and others are forming, as we speak.
Who Needs a BRATS Club?
Any school and/or community where there are current and former children of active duty and reserve military personnel.
How Does It Work?
BRATS Clubs are a joint effort between Brats Without Borders and the school and/or community organization that is interested in chartering an official BWB BRATS Club. BWB provides the initial direction, materials, resources, and ideas, and the newly chartered BRATS Club takes it from there! The chartered club agrees to share their activities and experiences with BWB, so other BRATS Clubs can benefit.
Kid BRATS Clubs: Any child who has a parent or caregiver who has served or is currently serving in any branch of military service, active duty or reserves.
Adult BRATS Clubs: Any adult who spent a portion of their childhood growing up in a military or TCK household.
Sponsor Requirements For Kid BRATS Clubs
Any adult may become a BRATS Club Sponsor, as long as they are:
- Vetted (with background checks), approved by, and legally responsible to the school or organization hosting the newly chartered BRATS Club.
- Grew up as a military dependent of any branch of service and personally experienced multiple moves, deployments, and other transitions/experiences unique to military children. (We realize this may limit the pool of potential sponsors, but we believe this requirement is critical for the sponsor to personally relate to the emotional, social, and academic challenges the children may be facing, and for the children to trust the sponsor.)
- Willing to commit to two meetings a month: one after-school on-premises meeting, and one off-premises social activity or community service project.
- Interested in mentoring and serving as a role model to military children.
- Committed to planning, scheduling, implementing, supervising, promoting the activities of, and performing all other responsibilities necessary for the success of the BRATS Club.
BRATS Clubs Around the Country!
Here is a list of BRATS Clubs that have started around the country since 2011.
Birdneck Elementary School - Virginia Beach, VA
Hermitage Elementary School - Virginia Beach, VA
Landstown Middle School - Virginia Beach, VA
Corporate Landing Middle School - Virginia Beach, VA
Landstown High School - Virginia Beach, VA
Ocean Lakes High School - Virginia Beach, VA
We do not currently have any BRATS Clubs in colleges, but we sorely need them. If you would like to start a collegiate BRATS Club, please let us know!
STATES & cities
Colorado BRATS Club - Denver, CO
How To Start a BRATS Club
To find out more about BWB BRATS Clubs for kids, or to start one in your area, contact:
Christy McAnally, Director of BRATS Clubs/Kids, at christy@USAbrat.org
Donna Musil, BWB Executive Director, at info@USAbrat.org