Fallen Heroes: Non-profit to benefit children sets up a home base in Picayune

Published 7:00 am Saturday, June 25, 2016

Volunteer: Ryan Maddox donates his time to the non-profit.  Photo by Cassandra Favre

Volunteer: Ryan Maddox donates his time to the non-profit.
Photo by Cassandra Favre

The spouses and children of military personnel and first responders are always aware of the fact that their loved one may not come home after a day on the job.
The reality is, some of them don’t.
After a child of one of this country’s heroes experiences the loss of a parent, non-profit groups like American’s Children of Fallen Heroes step in to help ease their pain and provide guidance in their darkest hours.
Mississippi Chapter President and National Director of Partnership Ryan Maddox recently moved to Picayune at the beginning of the year, where the chapter will be based. The Mississippi Chapter also encompasses children of fallen heroes in Southeastern Louisiana.
In 2000, the group’s founder met with two generals and discussed the needs of children whose military parents have not come home, Maddox said. That’s when he created Children of Fallen Soldiers.
However, after the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, an even bigger need to reach out to the children of local enforcement officers and fire fighters became evident, Maddox said.
The group, which is volunteer based, reaches out to local law enforcement and fire department agencies to find children to mentor, he said.
Maddox, who has been with the group for three years, said volunteers pledge a 10-year commitment to each child, which includes a mentorship and, in some cases, an Expression of Appreciation.
“Every kid has a hero, whether it be a football player or an Avenger character,” Maddox said. “We reach out to their agents to see if it’s possible for them to write or video their tribute. In a kid’s eye, their parents are everything and losing one is most traumatic. An Expression of Appreciation lets them know that people thank their parents for protecting us and even though we can’t repay their debt, we are forever grateful.”
In an effort to protect the children, their information is kept confidential and they are not commercialized, Maddox said. In addition, volunteers and mentors, who must also pass a background check, are assigned as a “buddy” to each child. Each child has one or more “buddies.” There is no one-on-one time spent with the child, Maddox said.
“When we assign a mentor, we try to find someone familiar with that particular line of work or someone that knew their parent,” Maddox said.
As Director of Partnerships, Maddox is also responsible for reaching out to businesses for sponsorship. A hundred percent of the funds raised from individual donations and fundraisers go to the kids, he said. The sponsorships take care of the administrative costs, he added.
Maddox, who donates his time and works full-time from his home, became familiar with loss when he lost his own fallen hero, his grandfather.
“My grandpa served in the Korean War,” he said. “You couldn’t pull me away from him. I wanted to be just like him. I lost him when I was 13-years-old. I became the child of a fallen hero because he had raised me. He also inspired me to join the Army.”
Group members encourage children to dream big and realize there’s nothing they can’t achieve, he said.
“What greater thing can you do than to teach a person not to give up?,” Maddox said. “When everything was taken from me, I gave up on authority, and school was hard for me. I had a pastor who cared enough and stuck by me. I had someone there to tell me to ‘get back on track,’’’ Maddox said. “I don’t want their kids falling through the cracks after what their parents faced daily.”
The organization also serves children whose parents made some bad decisions during their military or first responder service, Maddox said.
“No matter what, they once had an intention to serve our country and protect the United States,” he said. “We don’t let the kids suffer because of the parents.”
There are chapters of America’s Children of Fallen Heroes in San Diego and Orange County, California and Mississippi, he said.
The group mentors school-aged children and young adults up to 30-years-old, he said.
The group is seeking volunteers and local sponsorships, Maddox said. Maddox’s wife is supporting the family so he can continue his work with the group.
“If it wasn’t for her, I wouldn’t be able to do this,” Maddox said. “There are sacrifices and that’s fine.”
Learn more about America’s Children of Fallen Heroes at www.heroeskids.org and Maddox can be reached at 504-941-0264 and through email at ryan.maddox@quietlyworking.org.

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