Memorial Day 2014
Uncle Shawn's Hugs
Dawn Martin of Delmar founded Uncle Shawn's Hugs, a group of volunteers who have made more than 5,000 blankets for poor children since 2008, the year after her son, Shawn Martin, was killed in Iraq. It distributes fleeces each holiday season from a Toys for Tots Train in memory of the late Marine sergeant, who played football at Bethlehem High School and volunteered in the Elsmere Fire Co.
A family man, Shawn Martin was known for his warm hugs. In the military, he dissembled explosives. He died June 20, 2007 at 30 while trying to clear a roadside bomb in Saqlawiyah.
"I'm very proud of everything he accomplished," Dawn Martin said. "Shawn was very humble."
Uncle Shawn's Hugs started out of an invitation. The Marines asked Dawn Martin to come on board the Toys for Tots Train it sponsors to help pass out gifts to children upstate. She and friends created blankets to give away, thinking it would be a one-time thing. Then the train pulled up to a stop near Cobleskill and Dawn Martin met a boy standing in the freezing cold in only sneakers and a sweatshirt.
"He asked me if he could trade his toy for a blanket," Dawn Martin recalled. "I was like in tears thinking a child might be willing to trade the only toy he'd get for a blanket. I decided this is what we were going to do. It was a pivotal moment that changed everything forever."
They've shared blankets with a battered women's shelter in Schenectady, Schoharie flooding victims, child care centers and school nurses. It relies on donations. "It keeps me going day after day," said Dawn Martin, 64.
Shawn Martin's heroics are also memorialized with a street sign in front of the Elsmere firehouse. The room in the Leo W. O'Brien Federal Building in Albany where military enlistees take their oaths is named after him. There's a plaque with a picture of the Marine and a story about what happened to him. "All new recruits are reminded this is the sacrifice they might be giving," Dawn Martin said.
UNCLE SHAWN'S HUGS MISSION STATEMENT
Uncle Shawn's Hug's is a non-profit organization formed to make and distribute warm fleece blankets to underprivileged children.
Although these blankets are distributed from the Toys for Tots Train, they are not funded through the Toys for Tots organization.
It's the most wonderful time of the year!
March 20, 2013 - Remembering Shawn