BALTIMORE (WMAR) — Earlier this month - on Giving Tuesday - we told you about a massive donation to an organization that's helping Gold Star Families find purpose by helping others.
Now, more donors have responded - adding thousands more to the total for “The Travis Manion Foundation,” which sends the families of service members who were killed in combat on volunteer missions - all expenses paid.
Patrice and Doreen Cappalaere came into contact with the Travis Manion Foundation, after their daughter was killed while flying a training mission back in 2013.
Valerie Cappalaere Delaney grew up in Howard County, graduated from the Naval Academy and became a navy pilot.
“Valerie was an extraordinary young woman,” said her mother, Doreen Cappalaere, in an interview produced by the Travis Manion Foundation.
Valerie’s callsign was “Mom”
“That tells you a lot about her desire to keep her whole team or squadron together, to do something better,” said her father, Patrice Cappalaere.
But in 2013, the jet she was piloting crashed in eastern Washington State. Valerie was killed instantly.
“It was really hard. I mean we just could not understand what happened,” Patrice Cappalaere said.
One of the projects the Cappalaeres participated in through the Travis Manion Foundation was a day of service in Baltimore City. Volunteers planted trees and cleaned up garbage in a low-income neighborhood.
“I hear her voice in my head saying, ‘Mom get out there. Do what you can to help other people spread the message of good character and that service to other people is important’" said Doreen Cappalaere.
The projects are just in Baltimore, but all over the country and around the world.
“The power of service is healing. And through these service expeditions we give these surviving family members the opportunity to be able to take that back in their lives and feel more connected, and to be able to give back,” said Michael Desmond of the Travis Manion Foundation.
Like Valerie Cappalaere Delaney, Travis Manion was also a graduate of the Naval Academy.
He joined the Marines, but was killed in an ambush in Iraq back in 2007. His actions allowed every other member of his patrol to survive, and Manion was awarded the Silver Star and the Bronze Star with Valor. At his funeral, members of Manion's family started talking about forming an organization, focused on what they now call "survivor expeditions"
“What they really latched onto was the phrase 'If not me then who?' And this idea that we all have this capacity to create change in the community. And they wanted to live out that legacy by continuing to do that,” Desmond said.
On Giving Tuesday, the foundation announced that a private donor who wants to remain anonymous would be matching all donations, through December 31st - dollar for dollar - up to $1-million.
“We have a tremendous hole to fill. And the only way we can fill it is by serving,” said Patrice Cappalaere.
The donation will allow more Gold Star families like to serve with the selflessness of their loved ones.
“I knew for myself, I wanted to curl up in a ball and not function, not do anything,” said Doreen Cappalaere. “What we found is, you can do things to honor your loved ones. You're doing something that's helping you to live again.”
Travis Manion's roommate at the Naval Academy was Brendan Looney, of Southern Maryland. Looney became a Navy SEAL after graduation, but was killed in a helicopter crash in Afghanistan in 2010. They are buried next to each other at Arlington National Cemetery.
If you are interested in the Travis Manion Foundation, click here.