APPLING, Ga. (WJBF) – Social media is a tool that can bring us together. The Ivins are a military family stationed in the Florida panhandle, and their late daughter, Catherine, is buried in Appling. The family wasn’t able to visit her gravesite for her sixth birthday, so her mother Alex Ivins went to Facebook, asking the community for help. The response was overwhelming.
Catherine Ivins was stillborn in 2015. At the time, the couple was stationed in California. They made arrangements for a burial in Appling, Georgia, because Alex says the town felt like “home base”.
Due to military and COVID travel restrictions, the couple wasn’t able to visit the site on what would have been Catherine’s sixth birthday. Alex says the idea of possibly having no one visit the site on the sentimental date broke her heart. So she went to Facebook, asking the community to step in.
The post now has over 170 interactions, and throughout the day, Appling residents posted photo updates in the comment section as the gifts grew and grew.
“They may have seen it as just a drive home and a stop by the store and we pay our respects, but to us it meant the world. Because it means she wasn’t forgotten, she isn’t forgotten, and just because we weren’t unfortunately able to be there, there are people that are standing in that gap and are willing to do that,” Alex said. “That’s just one of the things that makes Appling and its people amazing.”
At the time of her passing, the VA’s Servicemember Group Life Insurance program, which provides financial support for military children’s funeral costs, had a weight guideline. Catherine fulfilled the gestation period guideline, but did not weigh the amount outlined by the program, so the family was ineligible for this aid.
“We didn’t want any other military family to have to wonder how they were going to bury their child, and if they were even going to be able to bury their child. We drained our savings to get her home and give her a proper burial and funeral and resting place.”
After a four year court battle, the policy requirements were changed in March 2020. There is no retroactive pay, however, Alex says it was worth the battle to ensure that military families who find themselves in a similar position in the future won’t have to worry about funeral expenses.
The Ivins documented this journey on the Facebook page Catherine’s Angels, which also has resources for parents who have lost a child.