Since retiring from the marines, Kentucky’s Shawn Triplett has been volunteering his time to help others. And recently, while helping out at a church shelter, Triplett overheard a conversation between a mom and her child who were displaced by the recent devastating tornado. He was so moved by what he heard, as he explained to People:
“I saw a child, no older than 6 years old, crying in his mother’s arms. She was crying too, but you could tell she was doing her best to look strong. The boy told his mom, ‘I’ve lost my Christmas.’ It was at that moment that I broke down and had to walk outside.”
The 38-year-old continued to share how he felt a physical reaction to their circumstances:
“It gut-punched me and hurt. I felt actual pain at that moment. I tried to sleep that night but I couldn’t. The pain in that kid’s voice broke me in half. I had to do something about it.”
So, after some time he decided to take on a rather different mission from his former career. He wanted to give kids affected by the tornadoes their Christmas back.
As he pointed out, in times of disaster we tend to help out with the essentials, ensuring food, clothing and shelter. However, the kind-hearted vet wanted to focus on the kids, especially in a season that is so centered around the family and the home.
“The reality is that most of these families were already living in low-income housing. Most had probably never had a ‘great’ Christmas. Most of the kids’ families were already on a strapped budget. Now their house is gone, the parents’ jobs are gone, their parent or parents might be gone, school friends … It just made me focus on the task that much more.”
A charitable act that kept on growing
Initially, his solution was to speak to family and friends and ask for donations so he could do a little Christmas shopping and buy gifts for the children. He also spoke with his local Walmart, which agreed to give him a 25% discount on the toys he bought.
However, to really make an impact Triplett then decided to set up a GoFundMe page, which quickly raised $89,000.
“Our original goal was to support 30 kids, but because of the GoFundMe, we’re able to reach hundreds of kids — and that’s my biggest joy, being able to give these kids so much. The support has been humbling and overwhelmingly incredible.”
With all the gifts Triplett has been able to buy with the donations, he’s decided to wrap them at his expense and plans to deliver them in person on Christmas day — dressed as Santa to bring a little magic to the kids who’ve lost so much.
Incredibly, the Kentucky man has also gone a little further. He’s put a lot of thought into the gifts to make sure they take age and interests into consideration, so there truly is a gift for everyone. And on top of that he’s bought family presents, so kids can have a bit of family fun on the day as well.
The considerate ex-marine wants the donors to know just how they have helped. He’s taking photos and sending receipts to those who contributed to his efforts. As he says: “This isn’t a ‘me’ project by any means. This has been the result of thousands of people spreading the word and making it happen.”
As Triplett continues to care for his devastated community he calls on others to be inspired by a much-loved personality:
“Please be reminded of Mister Rogers. ‘Look for the helpers. You can always find people who are helping.'”