Giving Back Awards 2013

Sponsored by Old Point National Bank Honoring The Region’s Outstanding Non-Profits

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Packed With Love

“Mamma Childers” Takes Care Of Her Marines And Honors Her Son With Boxes Brimming With Good Will
By My Nguyen

When you meet Wendy Childers for the first time, what strikes you immediately—before her sweet, Southern drawl, bright smile or warm and welcoming nature—is the fact that she is undeniably a mother.

On a bright and beautiful Saturday afternoon in September, I arrive at Knuckleheads Bar & Grill in Virginia Beach for the All Wheels Show, an annual fundraiser to support the Cody Childers Memorial Fund. Though I had only exchanged phone calls and e-mails with Wendy prior to the car show, I identify her immediately.

When I get her attention, she greets me and gives me a hug without any hesitation or pretense. We walk around the parking lot, which has transformed into a lively, animated reunion of friends, families and supporters (and their impressive cars), and she tells me more about her exceptional son and Marine, Cody, or “Codyboy,” as his father Randy Childers calls him to this day.

Lance Corporal Cody S. Childers was a 19-year-old United States Marine who was killed in Afghanistan in August 2010. The Memorial Fund was created to honor him and to keep his memory alive by sending care packages in his name to the deployed Marines that he loved and called his brothers.

Yet the concept for the Fund actually began while Cody was still alive, Wendy says. When Cody was stationed in Marjah, Afghanistan, Wendy sent him daily Moto-mail and care packages filled with his favorite things, such as Gatorade, Oreo Cakesters, homemade deer jerky, socks, cigarettes, diesel truck magazines and other deliverable comforts he might like.

On one particular call home, however, Cody mentioned how one of his Marine brothers had not received any care packages from home. This upset Cody and distressed Wendy deeply. The next day, upon Cody’s request, Wendy mailed Cody’s care package, along with some extras for him to hand out to friends.

Following Cody’s passing, Wendy and her family created the LCPL. Cody S. Childers Memorial Fund to pack and send care packages to his platoon—Golf Co., 3rd Platoon. She decided that they would provide a box for each Marine in the 3rd Platoon filled with all of Cody’s favorite things. These boxes included a PSP with games, a fan-pod and other snacks and food. They also sent disposable cameras so that the Marines could capture each other’s reactions to the boxes, as well as blank postcards so that they could write back.

Each and every one of the “Devil’s Cowboys” wrote back and shared stories of Cody. Their letters, as well as these initial care packages, were and remain a testament to Cody’s loving and generous nature, and the influence he had on the lives he touched. The Marines came to call Wendy “Mama Childers,” and she, too, felt that they were now her Marine sons.

Initially, the care packages were Wendy’s form of therapy, to keep her busy in the aftermath of Cody’s death. Now, it is her passion and mission.

Before leaving the event, I ask Wendy if she might be comfortable with inviting me into her life just a bit more, as I’d like to see the care packaging in action. She hugs me and tells me she’ll e-mail me her home address.

 A few weeks later, I drive up to a home lined with United States Marine Corps flags. Before I can get out of my car, Wendy is already standing in the driveway, ready to welcome me into her home.  

Wendy leads me to an upstairs room filled with packing boxes and laundry baskets filled with snacks, magazines, DVDs, socks and even Girl Scout Cookies. Josh and his mother, Tammi, whom I met at the car show, are also present to help. One by one, we grab a box and begin filling them to the brim with goodies for the Marines. We’re free to select whatever we want to put into the boxes, with Wendy’s one caveat: fill all of the space and cracks. (I find that the Toostie Rolls and bubble gum work especially well in this case.) At $13 dollars to ship each box, I can certainly understand her philosophy.

We work for an hour, and between the four of us, pack 70 boxes. Looking around, the whole production can be viewed as nothing less than a labor of love.

Putting together the care packages and working the events are Cody’s family and friends. All of those in attendance at the fundraisers and events are individuals who have felt the kindness of the LCPL. Cody S. Childers Memorial Fund personally, or who have been inspired by it.

Regardless, they are all a part of the Childers family now, and with Mama Childers at the helm, Cody can rest assured that his heart and spirit will never be forgotten.

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