by Ann Green, OSD Staff Writer

Staff Sergeant Trent Maner believes people should never be comfortable with “just good enough.”  This philosophy has served him well in his service to his country and his work for OSD and the youth of Greater Chicago.

 

During his multiple deployments as an infantryman in Iraq and Afghanistan SSG Maner was grateful for the contributions of OSD.  “Living conditions were subpar at best,” Maner recalls, “and there were long assignments on guard for my men, and even longer missions.  The video games supplied by OSD took you out of the situation; you could step away and decompress.  You could almost feel at home, although you were on the front lines.  It was like a piece of home, and something else to bond over.”  Maner met OSD Executive Director Glenn Banton during his third tour in Afghanistan.  “On my third tour,” Maner recalls, “OSD sent a lot of stuff and it allowed me to reach out to my soldiers in ways I wouldn’t have been able to connect with them under other circumstances.”  

 

Upon Maner’s return home he and Banton struck up a friendship.  Banton explained the goals and mission of OSD, which Maner officially joined in 2015.  Together they continued supporting his unit’s families and communities around Fort Hood and Austin, Texas.

Today the Senoia, Georgia native lives in Rockford, Illinois where he serves at the U.S. Army Recruiting Station.  After his move it was only natural that his relationship with OSD and the call to serve would continue.

 

Maner is especially proud of OSD’s donation of toys and video games to a children’s hospital.  He and his OSD colleagues also worked with Killeen, Texas police to deliver food and toys to a local battered women’s shelter.   “We do for the community, as well as for local soldiers,” says Maner.

 

 

In December of 2017 Maner embarked on his most ambitious venture, leading the combined forces of Microsoft and OSD to inaugurate a community outreach program for local youth through the Rockford recruiting office.   “Microsoft stores in the Chicago area have partnered with OSD this holiday season to ensure that after-school programs have sufficient gaming supplies,” said Megan Wright, Microsoft community development specialist, at the time.  “Our gaming community has a big focus on engaging with students in fun, meaningful ways and OSD has been a fantastic partner in making this happen.  We look forward to the events and programming in the coming year.”  Maner acknowledges Microsoft’s sincere desire to be part of the community.  The company not only donates games but also sponsors training programs across Illinois to train students to use technology.  

 

Thanks to Maner’s vision and efforts the recruiting office now serves as a safe, comfortable, inviting setting where local youth come together on select nights to hang out, have fun, relax, socialize and play video games.

 

Maner sees a parallel between how OSD gaming supplies helped him when he was deployed and how the same efforts and equipment enable him reach out to teens from the inner city.  “Since I started my work as a recruiter in Rockford I became aware of a divide between where I am, about an hour’s drive from Chicago, and the inner city.”    His OSD mission is to reach out to high school kids who live in poverty-stricken, high crime areas by organizing video game nights.  

 

“These students need a break from their difficult everyday lives.  We hold our programs at the recruiting station but not in order to recruit,” says Maner.  “It helps them see that we’re all the same.  Some need mentors; their homes and schools are not what they should be.  While they’re having a good time with us, they’re not making bad decisions.  In some environments they don’t have the ability to be kids, but they can do that at our game nights.  Glenn and Microsoft provide awesome backup. This is also a way of showing that people just want to help others, that not everything is political.”

 

“Video games are a language anyone can speak.  We’re all the same, regardless of color, religion or politics,” adds Maner.  “The kids I work with see that I’m not a recruiter for them, just a guy who wants to hang out, and see them do good things.  We find a common ground.  They have a chance to get away from the violence they see every day.  Fifteen- to nineteen-year-olds are really impressionable.  It’s easy for them to make bad decisions that can affect their whole lives.”  Maner is grateful that his work as a recruiter enables him to “make an impact on someone’s life.  Soldiers use video games to cope with a challenging environment, and so do kids.  It is a way to communicate with like-minded people, or people in the same situation.”

 

“OSD is a nonprofit that really cares about individuals as well as humanity as a whole,” says Maner. “OSD is well known in the military community, among deployed soldiers, veterans and those recovering from injuries or PTSD.  Glenn really has a noble vision.”

 

Maner lives in Rockford with his wife and son.