News: CLB-6 Marines raise funds for child with cancer
Story by Cpl. Paul Peterson
CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. - Despite hundreds of servicemembers with Combat Logistic Battalion 6, 2nd Marine Logistics Group, preparing to depart on their final training exercise before deploying to Afghanistan, when the call to help a family in need rippled through the battalion, the Marines answered without hesitation.
"They may not know the person, they may not even know me personally as a Marine, but they know somebody needs help, and that's what they're here to do," said Sgt. Vanessa R. Belcher, a maintenance management specialist and native of Tellico Plains, Tenn., with CLB-6, who learned her niece, Savannah, had a high-risk form of childhood cancer.
The 25-year-old Marine instinctively wanted to do something and began brainstorming .
"We just found out right after Christmas," said Belcher. "My sister is a nurse and her husband has a job, but in order for them to spend more time with my niece that would mean they don't work and bills don't get paid."
She decided to turn to her Marine Corps family for assistance and organized a battalion-wide chili cook-off to raise money for her sister's family.
News of the event spread to the Marines throughout the battalion as teams and individual servicemembers volunteered to cook-up their favorite batches of chili and donate them to Belcher's cause. In the midst of their preparations to deploy, the battalion's personnel broke away from their daily duties and assembled outside the unit's compound at Camp Lejeune, N.C., April 25.
"You never know how something like this is going to turn out," said Belcher, who kept the event a secret from her sister. "(The servicemembers) know they're about to be away from their families. To help another family be together kind of pushes somebody."
The contestants laid out a table of chili bowls for the cook-off, and even more volunteers brought their own homemade recipes to support the event.
"After I heard the reason why, I really wanted to (help)," said Cpl. Tamara M. Paz, one of the participants in the competition who also works with Belcher. "Being new to the battalion, I'm still getting to know everyone and learn everybody's faces. It was nice seeing the camaraderie out there."
The Marines sampled the various chilies for free and provided donations on a strictly volunteer basis. Many donated before even sampling the food, said Paz, a native of Hialeah, Fla.
Several members of the battalion's senior leadership assumed roles as judges and conducted a blind sampling of the various dishes. They sifted through the assortment of entrées, jotted down notes, and eventually rendered a verdict after nearly fifteen minutes of deliberation.
"I didn't win, but I thought I was up there," joked Paz, who said she and the volunteers were just there to support a family in need.
In a matter of hours, the chili cook-off raised almost 1,000 dollars in donations and an emotional thank you from Belcher's sister when she finally heard about the event.
"I have a daughter," said Belcher reflectively. "When I think about it, that could be me. That could be my child."
"Everybody has different reasons for joining (the military), but we all have that common factor of family," she continued. "When they come to that unit, that's their family. … Some Marines may not be getting anything in return for volunteering, but they do it because they know somebody needs help."
The money will go to Savannah's family to help pay for pharmacy and other medical costs associated with her treatment.