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Clay woman holds book drive for A Soldier’s Child Foundation

By Crystal McGough, copy editor

CLAY – Just a couple weeks ago, our entire nation set aside a weekend to honor and remember the heroes who paid the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom. Many businesses closed their doors, families grilled out, some traveled to visit relatives, and many more shared their gratitude on social media over Memorial Day weekend.

By the following Tuesday, however, most Americans had gone back to their everyday routines and lives. For the loved ones those heroes left behind, however, their memory, gratitude and even heartache lasts well beyond the holiday. Spouses left to raise their children alone, children who will grow up hearing stories of the hero their mother or father had been, the always-empty place at the dinner table.

Mandy Clark, a resident of Clay, wants to make sure those families, and especially those children, know that they are loved and remembered even after the world around them seems to have moved on.

In May, Clark became a consultant for Usborne Books and More, a children’s book publishing company based out of the UK. It didn’t take long before she started looking for ways to use her business to give back. Inspired by social media posts over Memorial Day weekend, Clark became motivated to find a way to use her company to benefit families who have lost a parent or spouse in service to their country.

As a result, Clark is currently running a book drive for A Soldier’s Child Foundation, an organization that provides support to “Gold Star” families, families who have lost a parent in active military service.

“I was thinking of a cause to get involved in and I started searching and found A Soldier’s Child,” Clark said. “I thought about how we’re often thinking about the people that we’ve lost in military service and honoring their service, but sometimes our brain doesn’t take us that step farther to: what about the children that are left behind? People that have lost a parent, a spouse…it just grabbed my heart and didn’t let go.”

While Clark has not personally lost a family member in the service, her brother is a graduate of the Air Force Academy, and she has other family members who have served in the military, as well. A Soldier’s Child Foundation seemed like a perfect cause to devote her time and resources to.

“They provide birthday celebrations, summer camps, counseling services, scholarships and things like that,” Clark said. “They have an annual summer camp; this is a big one here, it’s the 9th Annual Journey Summer Camp, where children that they serve from all over the country come to share their stories, to share their grief, to heal, to be encouraged and find hope.”

Credit: A Soldier’s Child Foundation

A Soldier’s Child Foundation is based out of Smyrna, Tennessee, and hosts its annual Journey Camp each year during the week of the Fourth of July. The camp will be held in Thompson’s Station, Tennessee, from June 30 through July 6.

According to asoldierschild.org, “Journey Camp is our week-long flagship camp where your children come to a loving, safe environment where they can be themselves, let down their guard, trust and receive, love, honor and hope. Journey Camp is a place where they spend a week with other children who are on the same personal journey in pursuit of adventure, building lifelong relationships and seeking restoration and healing.”

The camp usually has an average of 125 children in attendance, Clark said. Through her book drive, Clark hopes to be able to present each child at the camp with their own copy of “Wonders of the USA: A Shine-A-Light Book,” a book with hidden images in each page that can be revealed with a flashlight.

“Wonders of the USA: A Shine-A-Light Book” from Usborne Books & More

Clark plans to be present at the camp on sign-up day, June 30, and personally hand each child a copy of the book with his or her name written in it as they come to register for camp. But in order to do so, she needs to be able to purchase at least 125 Shine-A-Light books, enough for each and every child in attendance. This is where the book drive comes in.

Clark set up a GoFundMe page to take donations for the book drive. In order to guarantee that each “Gold Star” child receives a book, she needs to raise $1,500. So far, $205 of that goal has been met.

“Once the donations are collected, then the books will be purchase and Usborne Books and More will match 50%,” she said. “Whatever we raise, they will give a 50% matching grant to meet our goal.”

If there are additional funds after the books have been purchased, Clark plans to try to provide each child with a flashlight to use with their book, and will donate any remanding funds directly to the Journey Camp operating budget.

The book drive and GoFundMe page will be open through June 16, to allow time for the books to be ordered and arrive prior to the first day of camp.

“As we remember those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice for our country, let us also remember the people they’ve left behind,” Clark said. “Let us rally in support for them. There are people that are still making that sacrifice everyday.”

To make a donation to the book drive for A Soldier’s Child Foundation, please go to http://www.gofundme.com/a-soldier039s-child-foundation-book-drive or email Mandy Clark at butterflyhort@gmail.com. For more information on A Soldier’s Child Foundation, visit their Facebook page or website at asoldierschild.org.

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