DePaul Business Student Launches Nonprofit for Gold Star Families

When retired Marine and undergraduate business student Charlie Jones tried to write a letter to the son of a colleague who was killed while serving in Afghanistan in 2013, he couldn’t find the right words.

Jones, who works for Northrop Grumman, a defense contractor in Rolling Meadows while attending DePaul University part-time, learned of Sgt. John Davis’s death when he received a telephone call during a Blackhawks game in February 2013. John’s wife, Helena, asked Jones and a couple of his colleagues if they could write letters to her son, Calvin, who was just 4 years old at the time.

Jones struggled to find the right words to say, and during the anniversary of John’s death the following year, he realized he never wrote the letter.

“I thought about what it would be like to read the letter, and how that experience would be. It seemed too one-dimensional and I thought that a video would much more meaningful,” Jones says. “You could really see how much John meant on the face of the person talking. But I also thought that one man’s opinion is good, but it’s just not a complete picture, so I started calling some of the other guys who knew John and asked his wife if she knew anyone and next thing I knew there were seven other guys really excited to get involved.”

Creating Resources for Families

Jones secured donations from production professionals and a friend, a film colorist who lives in Atlanta, to create the 25-minute video. The high-resolution video features seven Marines who served alongside Sgt. Davis recounting their memories of the fallen soldier.

The video premiered at a gathering in the Old Orchard Club in Mount Prospect, Ill. in May of this year. Helena and her son Calvin, who is now 9 years old, attended to watch the tribute. There wasn’t a dry eye in the room, Jones recalls. “(Helena and Calvin) were really kind of stunned watching it,” he says.

Jones is currently in his senior year at the Driehaus College of Business where he is studying business administration. Thanks to guidance from the Coleman Entrepreneurship Center, Jones launched the Dear Calvin Project under his nonprofit organization, Survived, Inc., in 2017. He hopes to create more initiatives and resource for Gold Star families – families who have lost someone in wartime efforts. Jones is planning to create fountain pens, which he hopes to auction off to raise funds, as well as custom-made wooden boxes that will represent the effected families in some way.

“I’d like to think about programs that help kids (who have lost a parent) grow up, figuring out what they are passionate about and try to find professionals in the area that can help develop them,” Jones says. “One of the hard realities about losing a parent is that it doesn’t matter what kind of background you come from, it doesn’t matter how much money you make. If you lose a parent, every bad statistic skyrockets.”

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