By SHERRY VAN ARSDALL
THE GOSHEN NEWS
Tears come to Christen Sullivan’s eyes when she talks about her parents and the reason she started Christen’s Wish in 2011.
The 15-year-old shared her story Wednesday evening with members of the Goshen’s Veteran Honor Guard, along with her mom, Eileen Sullivan of South Bend at Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 985.
“I saw my mom crying — and her tears — and my dad saying, ‘What’s going on’ to my mom,” Christen said, “and my mom would tell him what’s going on and I felt I wanted to do something to help and give back to veterans.”
Her dad, Marine John Sullivan, was diagnosed with Persian Gulf War Syndrome in May 2010 and by that time, the family’s house was in foreclosure and Christen “watched us sell rings and furniture, anything to get cash to pay bills,” Eileen Sullivan said, “because John became so sick he couldn’t work anymore. The Veteran’s Administration basically told him to go home and not move.”
“After 17 months, the Veterans Administration registered John as unemployable because of his seizure disorder, and I am his federal fiduciary,” Eileen said.
So Christen, along with her parents, founded the local organization, Christen’s Wish, to help veterans in crisis who need financial assistance along with food, clothing and housing.
Roger Bayak of Goshen had the opportunity to meet Christen and her family during a Veterans Gala recently held at the Century Center in South Bend. Bayak said he was moved by their story and wanted to help the organization and knew just how to help them.
“Nancy Vander Reyden told me she had clothes from her late husband, Wayne Vander Reyden, who was a veteran, and wanted to donate them to help other veterans, if possible,” Bayak said.
So he contacted the Sullivans to come and meet Nancy Wednesday evening, and it so happened she was unable to be there, Bayak said.
But Eileen Sullivan shed tears when she saw the suits wrapped in plastic from the dry cleaners and boxes of shirts, shoes, pants and undergarments.
“These suits are going to other veterans in need and that’s what we do with clothing donated to us,” the mother said. “We’re run strictly by volunteers and 100 percent goes directly to veterans.”
Three other members of Goshen’s Veteran Honor Guard meeting Christen and Eileen were George Buckmaster, Terry Morgan and Jim Matousek, all of Goshen.
Tears, smiles and hugs were shared by the new friends, with being veterans and knowing veterans the common factor.
“I am so pleased at what daughter comes up with and we implement a way to get it (her ideas) done. A lot of people don’t understand what we went through and to have her want to help other veterans, I am just so proud,” she said, with tears in her eyes.
Christen made some goals and reached them as a student at Veritas Academy since starting her organization.
“We raised about $1,000 in two to three weeks to help veterans,” she said. “We had a walk in May and it was a success. The gala was very good and I met Roger and some other wonderful vets. My best friend Katie, and her mom, was there.”
Christen has a goal — to open a resale shop by May 2013 — so veterans can get clothing, food and financial help right there on the spot with their VA card, said Eileen.
For more information on Christen’s Wish, go to the website, www.christenswish.org.