By Dillon Thomas
WINDSOR, Colo. (CBS) – A Gold Star family in Northern Colorado continued a tradition of helping others through a fundraiser in honor of their fallen soldier. In honor of Army Sgt. Christopher Birdwell who was killed in Afghanistan in 2012, the Birdwell family hosts the Christopher Birdwell Memorial Fundraiser each year in the Windsor area.
“Grief is tough on everyone,” said Dustin Birdwell, Chris’ brother. “(The fundraiser) is just bringing everyone together, us getting to know one another, and building that community together. All for a great cause.”
Through auctioned donations from several Northern Colorado companies and ticket sales to the event, the Birdwell family is able to raise money in Chris’ name. The money is then donated to Hero Expeditions, an organization which provides outdoor experiences for wounded and other veterans. They bring wounded veterans together.
Friends, family, and strangers from around the state came together to make the event possible. Some from out of state, and others including El Paso County Sheriff Bill Elder, made their way to Northern Colorado to show their support.
We want to remember Chris, we want to honor him,” said Pam Birdwell, Chris’ mother. “I think he would love (the fundraiser.) He would be right in the thick of it all.”
The fundraiser took place at Island Lake Marine and Sports, a venue which provided ability for attendees to play in the water, ride in boats, play volleyball and eat.
“(Chris was) the life of the party. Always smiling, laughing,” Dustin Birdwell said.
The Birdwell Family said Chris loved sports, fun in the water and group events surrounded by food and friends.
“He would be out on the water trampoline, doing flips, showing of and having a great time,” Pam Birdwell said.
The money from the event will directly fund a goose hunt in Northern Colorado, hosted by Hero Expeditions. The hunt will take 10 to 15 veterans on the hunt in Birdwell’s honor. The hunt will take place in late January 2019.
If you know a veteran who may qualify for the all-expenses-paid hunting trip, visit HeroExpeditions.org.
The Birdwell’s said they hoped the annual tradition would continue to help others while keeping Chris’ memory alive.
“I think (Chris) probably would be speechless,” Dustin Birdwell said. “This is a way we get to celebrate (Chris,) while not forgetting people who are still serving.”
Dillon Thomas is a reporter at CBS4 and a Colorado native. He believes everyone has a story, and would love to share yours! You can find more of his stories by following him on Twitter, @DillonMThomas.