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After tragedy, mother makes it her mission to help children achieve a better life
She is a mother who suffered an unspeakable loss. Cindy Martin chose to use her tragedy to try to make something good happen for the community's children.
"July 28th, 2012, my son, Matthew Sheldon Cox Jr., was killed. The last thing I want to see is another child suffer," Cindy said.
Cindy is very candid about the missteps that her 19-year-old son had made in his life, but she said he was turning things around. He'd enrolled at Pensacola State College with a goal to become an underwater welder.
That was a dream denied when he was shot and killed in the front yard of their home. This grieving mother decided to give purpose to her pain; trying to save every child she can from the streets.
"I just see so much potential in them. I just want to do whatever I can to try to help fix the system. You know, anyway I can be an asset in these children's lives," Cindy said.
When the Morris Court Community Park was closed because it had fallen into disrepair; Cindy took to the halls of local government to get it reopened and have new playground equipment installed. She became the voice for children like 10-year-old Unique Rigsby Mack.
This is what the child wanted her to tell the decision makers: "It's so important to have this park out here because it brings each other together. And without the park, we don't know what we would do without it."
This isn't Cindy's neighborhood and nor are most of the other areas where she's trying to make a difference. It doesn't matter; she said she sees the need.
"I noticed that the same park equipment was here when I moved here in 1988. And I just said, 'No, this is not right.' These are our at-risk children. These are the ones that we need to pay more attention to," Cindy said. "These are the ones we have to go down, get in the trenches with."
Jadarian Carmichael, 13, said Miss Cindy has made herself right at home in Morris Court.
"She came in and helped us like we were family; like we were her own children," Jadarian said.
While the renovation is slowly taking shape, Cindy spends time making her presence felt among the children. She encourages them to pursue excellence in all things, to have pride in themselves and their neighborhood.
With community support, she tries to keep activities going like a back-to-school bash. It's one more thing to keep the young ones busy; no idle hands.
The children are grateful. Rodneyanna Lee loves what's happening.
"She brings the community together," Rodneyanna said. "She has, like, cookouts for us; back-to-school parties. She gets a park rebuilt."
Cindy has a goal beyond the tangible impact she hopes to make.
"When I leave them at the end of the day, I want them to know that somebody loved them; that somebody cared," Cindy said.
Jadarian said she's done that.
"I think she's like an angel from heaven that God sent her down to help us," Jadarian said.
Angels In Our Midst is sponsored by Nemours Children's Specialty Care.