Give a hug from Uncle Shawn

Martin found the name of her organization to be a no-brainer.

"When I wrapped blankets around a child who was shivering and cold, it was like giving them a warm hug," said Martin.

Part of the reason why her efforts snowballed so quickly is because she was surprised by the large demand for basic necessities in the immediate area.

"It's hard to believe that we have children in our own area and backyard that don't have their own blankets. This one little girl about 5 or 6 months old, was wrapped in her mother's sweatshirt, didn't have a jacket; I couldn't wait to wrap that little girl in one of those warm blankets," said Martin.

Experiences like that are what spurs her to propel Uncle Shawn's Hugs further each year. She said the genuine "thank yous" she receives make everything worth it.

"I went to give this child a blanket last year, and the mother said, 'No, we came to say thank you for last year. Give it to another child,'" said Martin. "Those are the things that touch your heart."

Her son had some of her giving spirit, said Martin, who remembers him as having "a big heart" and "giving to everyone." She said he was full of energy and spread that out over various jobs, from construction to cooking, before settling on the military. From then on, said Martin, Shawn was a changed man.

"He was a very focused person. He just knew what he wanted and went forward with it," said Martin.

That meant spending four years with an anti-terrorist company, then re-enlisting to work as an explosive ordinance destruction person, which is someone who clears the fields so the military can walk through them. Martin said she got some flak for supporting her son's headstrong and steadfast decisions, but as a mother, she couldn't imagine doing anything different.

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