Jammies For GIs, a newly launched local campaign to provide clothes and personal items for wounded soldiers overseas, is getting an unexpected boost in the form of a song.
Founder Cheryl Lepsch of the City of Tonawanda says the parents of Marine Lance Cpl. Brian Schramm, who died in Iraq last month, have decided to donate proceeds from a song tribute to their son, "When a Soldier Says Goodbye," to the effort.
Organizers hope that the CD, released Thursday, Veterans Day, will raise $10,000.
Lepsch says one of her three sons, Jeremy, and Schramm were in the same unit, the 8th Tank Battalion, which has a headquarters in Rochester.
"I was talking with some of the parents out there and told them what I was doing for soldiers, and word must have gotten around," she said. "When Brian's parents set up memorials for him, they wanted donations to go to a scholarship in Rochester and Jammies For GIs."
Lepsch says the Schramms thought of Jammies For GIs when a family friend, personal trainer Ken Rex, president of Personal Energy in Rochester, wrote a song in Brian's memory, got it recorded and asked what charity they wanted it to benefit.
"That's how I got called," Lepsch says.
Lepsch started Jammies For GIs after her son, on anti-terrorist assignment in Djibouti, fell seriously ill last summer and was evacuated to Germany for treatment. None of his clothes or personal items went with him. Even now, she says, as he's continuing to recover in Camp Lejeune, N.C., his belongings are still in Africa.
"They just go with the clothes on their back," she said. "In Germany, you have no address. Your address is in Iraq or, in my son's case, Africa. We didn't get anything to him in Germany.
"If it weren't for the charitable organizations, he wouldn't have gotten anything," she added.
Lepsch is a single mother on disability with back and neck injuries suffered in an assembly line accident at American Axle Co. about 10 years ago.
She began her efforts to help wounded soldiers by selling ribbon magnets and used her first donations to send telephone calling cards to GIs.
Now she's set up collection points at Tonawanda City Hall, North Tonawanda City Hall, the Kenmore Mercy Hospital Rehab Unit and several other locations. She also has a Web site: www.jammiesforgis.com.
"When a Soldier Says Goodbye" can be purchased through the Web site.
"The other night I played it at the Tonawanda School Board meeting and there wasn't a dry eye in the house," she says. "It was so moving."