IVH residents get out and about for a shower of gifts

Residents of the Iowa Veterans Home were treated to ice cream, popcorn and a “Shower of Gifts” Wednesday afternoon.

Every year, Kandie and Brad Vaughn of Cedar Falls collect a truck load of donations from Cedar Valley residents to then donate to the veterans of IVH. The “Shower of Gifts” is in honor of their late son Travis Vaughn, a soldier of the 160th Special Operations “Night Stalkers” who died in a helicopter crash in Afghanistan in 2007. Wednesday’s event was the 13th consecutive Shower of Gifts to honor not only Travis Vaughn’s memory, but also to honor the service of IVH veterans.

“I didn’t want people to forget about Travis’s sacrifice,” Kandie said. “But it has morphed into, ‘Where else can you go in one day and reach over 350 people and say thank you for your service?’ So all of this is given in Travis’s memory, but we know he can’t use the shampoo and deodorant.”

Brad said someone once told him until Travis is forgotten, he’s not gone.

“It puts a smile on my face to see veterans come through,” Brad said. “It makes the heart warm.”

The COVID-19 pandemic brought many changes and challenges to the event. The shower is usually held on the anniversary of Travis Vaughn’s death — Feb. 18 — and was unable to happen at that date this year given the state of the pandemic at the time.

“I got a call from the Veterans Home a few months ago asking if there’s any way we could pull off a shower gifts now,” Kandie said. “As you can see we are pulling it off and with just a few months to spare to do it.”

A fundraiser for the shower was held Sept. 11 in Cedar Falls to purchase items for IVH residents. With a bake sale, raffle and auction items, close to $7,000 to buy items was raised.

Residents receive bags of personal items including shampoos, soaps, lotions, aftershave, books and DVDs. Brad said they expect to leave behind close to $2,000 worth of items for residents.

After taking a tour of IVH 14 years ago before the event began, Kandie was inspired to do something for the residents. She learned residents use vouchers to buy items they need such as toiletries, and she wanted to donate those items free-of-charge so residents could save the money for non-essentials they wanted.

Kandie said she wanted this year’s event to feel more like a party as IVH residents have had limited opportunities to get out and about since the COVID-19 pandemic began.

Unlike events in year’s past, Wednesday’s Shower of Gifts was held outdoors, giving residents a chance to enjoy the weather, visit with volunteers and listen to music. More than 30 volunteers helped deliver items at the shower. Kandie was sad she could not hug residents she has seen year after year or personally hand them ice cream bars due to the on-going pandemic, but was also just happy to have the event.

Kandie said could feel Travis at the shower on Wednesday.

“I can feel him here today. I felt him as I was driving here,” Kandie said. “It’s so Travis’s service and sacrifice is not forgotten, along with all of the others.”

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Contact Trevor Babcock at 641-753-6611 or tbabcock@timesrepublican.com.