Sailor Pays it Forward to Help Other Military Families
By LCDR Jennifer Cragg
Publication: The Dolphin
Groton – A Sailor assigned to Pre-Commissioning Unit North Dakota (SSN 784) and his family are paying it forward by helping other military families who are taking care of their ill or sick children this holiday season.
Sonar Technician Submarines 1st Class (SS) Mark Phelps and his wife, Amanda, welcomed their twin girls into the world 10 weeks before the expended due date July 7, 2007. One of their twins, Devyn was born with an rare birth defect, Apert syndrome. Over the past five years, Devyn has undergone 23 surgeries with the latest occuring in late November.
He and his family have taken the lessons learned from these surgeries and are finding ways to pay their experience forward to help other military children and their families who are coping with extra expenses that pop up along the way, especially during the holidays.
“My wife has been at all of Devyn’s 23 surgeries, never complaining once, being a cheerleader for our daughter,” said Phelps, who added that their family has seen personally how the extra expenses add up extremely quickly after so many required surgeries.
“My wife wanted to do something bigger than our daughter to find a way to help other people, especially in the military, cut a small fraction of extra expenses that incur while supporting a sick child,” said Phelps.
Phelps added his wife took to the computer and created a Facebook page, “Devyn’s Charm”, to bring together like-minded families. “Amanda essentially wanted to raise a $1,000 to help an estimated 10 families,” said Phelps. “She came up with that number, because we both know how much it costs on a weekly basis when you have one or more doctor appointments.”
Phelps said that their Facebook page is growing at a rate of 20 likes per hour since his wife launched it Dec. 10. People in social media are paying attention and really paying it forward, said Phelps.
“When we launched the page it grew to more than 600 likes in less than week and my wife is almost to her original monetary goal,” said Phelps.
Phelps added that the page has received nearly 1,400 likes since its launch date.
Once the monetary goal is reached, Amanda will distribute the money to the two social departments at the Yale New Haven Children’s Hospital where Devyn has called her second home since her birth.
“The social workers there have a finger on the pulse of the families who are military and know who might benefit most from this truly social act,” said Phelps.
Phelps, who has been stationed at Naval Submarine Base New London for the past 10 years, but currently assigned to the North Dakota, is thankful for the dedication and care his daughter has received from the Navy and her primary physicians.
“I can’t put a number on how many more surgeries she will need, but what I can say is through the support of the local military and hospital she has a strong network to see her through countless more surgeries in the future,” said Phelps, who added that this birth defect is extremely rare and the massive amount of surgeries to date have repaired her hips, hands, skull and required that Devyn have a tracheostomy, which will be removed in the future.