They’re the beautiful child angels from Angel Families.
And there is no hesitation when they proudly introduce themselves to hundreds of supporters attending the formal Angel Gala of Families of America’s Fallen.
They say their names, and, proudly, the names of their beloved missing parents, who died in the military or were first responders. They tell how their parents died and why they weren’t able to come home. The children smile across the room at their Angel Family mothers.
And they tell Angels of America’s Fallen how the nonprofit’s help, up to age 18, allowed them to continue their participation in sports and dance and music and martial arts. As one youngster explained, “it helped me and helped my mom who couldn’t do it all and we couldn’t afford it when my dad was gone.”
Five years ago, Joe and Shelli Lewis, with help from family and friends, started Angels of America’s Fallen to be there for the children so they wouldn’t experience “one more loss” in their lives. (aoafallen.org)
It has become a nationwide model and the Feb. 15 evening at The Broadmoor had grown to a more-than-sold-out 565 people who cheered the child angels’ accomplishments and cried at the stories of their missing parents. They donated $365,000 to continue the programs and help cut down a waiting list of more than 500 children.
The group’s board of directors and Angel Families greeted all arriving attendees, making it all very personal.
Keynote speaker Boston Gilbert inspired, telling about his father, an F-16 pilot who went down after saving Special Forces ground forces from incoming al-Qaida. Boston was 9.
With support, he could eventually continue his passion for club soccer until high school, when it was just too expensive. “Angels of America’s Fallen was a God-send” and he went on to play, including at SMU until he suffered injuries requiring surgery. He’s now a graduate student at Dallas Baptist University playing a final medical red-shirt soccer year.
Boston’s promise: “To other Angels of America’s recipients and Gold Star families, I’m standing by you. There is hope. There is healing.”
Photo gallery: gazette.com/life/around-town