Ten years ago this week, seven parents met for coffee in Tampa. They had two things in common: they all lived in the Tampa Bay area and they all had a child serving in the Marines.
That coffee was followed by a pot-luck dinner and before she knew it, Cyd Deathe had become co-founder of the Tampa Area Marine Parents Association, or T.A.M.P.A.
Despite its name, the support group is for all family members and friends serving in every branch of the military. Over its first decade, the support group has sent thousands of care packages to deployed troops and taken on dozens projects at home like supporting veterans’ families that fall through the cracks.
Their first big project was the pillow project. The idea came from Deathe’s son, who requested a small pillow, about the size of a laptop computer, that he could rest his head on but was easily packed while on deployment. Thousands have been sewn and mailed to troops since.
“Our favorite story of the pillow,” Deathe said. “One Marine who went on three deployments who refused to let his mother even wash it because he didn’t want to lose that pillow.”
The celebration kickoff is a picnic Saturday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Hillsborough County's Veterans Memorial Park on U.S. 301. Everyone is welcome. You are asked to bring your own side-dish, the hot dogs and hamburgers are provided. But Deathe said no one will be turned away.
In October, the Tampa support group will be represented by 50 runners in the 39th Marine Corps Marathon.
“For the first time in our ten years, we’re so excited, we were accepted as a charity partner by the Marine Corps Marathon Foundation,” Deathe said. “So we have 50 bibs, some of them are already gone, but we still have some available.”
Even though her son is no longer serving in the Marine Corps, Deathe continues serving as T.A.M.P.A.'s executive director. It’s her way of serving her country as well as all those who have worn the uniform and their families.