When Cyndy Jones’s only son, U.S. Marine Captain Eric A. Jones, died in a helicopter crash while flying a combat mission on October 26, 2009, in Afghanistan, it was the lowest moment of her life. Nearly 14 years later, Jones has demonstrated how tragedy can be turned into a force for good through her work with Heroes In Transition (HIT).
Last Thursday, June 8, Jones was one of 26 volunteers from throughout New England to be honored with a Myra H. Kraft Community MVP Award. The New England Patriots Foundation celebrated the group with an awards luncheon at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro.
As part of the recognition, the Patriots Foundation awarded a total of $275,000, divided among the recipients which included $10,000 to HIT.
HIT Executive Director Nicole Spencer, HIT Program & Volunteer Manager Kristen Alexander, and HIT Director of Communications Chris Kazarian joined Jones at the luncheon.
“Every day, I am inspired by all that Cyndy does to give back to heroes in our community who are serving and have served our country as well as their loved ones,” Spencer said. “She has shown so much care, compassion, and love for helping individuals and families who face tremendous challenges as a result of their military service. She has been a beacon of light for HIT and a shining example for how one can face tremendous loss with courage, dignity, and faith.”
Following Eric’s death, Cyndy and her late husband Kenneth started HIT to honor his life, service, and sacrifice. Since that time, HIT has grown in size and scope through its work which provides a pathway to healing, builds community, strengthens relationships, and empowers those they serve with over a dozen programs that annually assist over 1,400 individuals throughout Cape Cod, the Islands, and Massachusetts.
“In trying to make meaning of my son’s death, Ken, Eric’s best friend Mike Warshaw and I started Heroes In Transition,” Cyndy said. “While Eric is no longer physically here, I feel his presence in the thousands of service members, veterans, military families, military spouses and military couples we have helped through HIT since its inception.”
The New England Patriots Foundation and the Kraft family have been recognizing volunteers who exemplify leadership, dedication, and a commitment to serving their communities for the past 25 years. Originally known as the Community Quarterback Awards, it was named in memory of Myra Kraft following her death in 2011.
A philanthropist and the wife of New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft, Myra was president and director of the New England Patriots Charitable Foundation and served on multiple boards, including the American Repertory Theatre, the United Way of Massachusetts Bay, Northeastern University, and the Boys and Girls Clubs of Boston.
Josh Kraft, President of the New England Patriots Foundation, spoke about what the awards meant to his mother Myra. “She believed so much in volunteerism,” he said. “Shortly after her passing we created an ongoing initiative which is really our defining philanthropic initiative with the team – celebrate volunteerism. It really is a tribute to her and what was important to her. That’s why naming these awards in her memory was such an easy thing for us to do.”
He introduced Jones and her impact on the community during last week’s event. “Heroes In Transition has saved lives, marriages and improved people’s lives for the better,” he said. “Congratulations, Cynthia. We know that your son Eric is smiling down on you and your family.”
“Eric’s death has taught me that giving back, especially to people who truly need it – like the ones HIT helps on a daily basis – is the greatest gift we can give in this life,” said Cyndy. “I am truly humbled by this recognition, especially because of Myra Kraft and all that she did to make people’s lives, our communities, and our society a better place. Our shared connection to Mashpee and Cape Cod makes this even more meaningful.”
At the luncheon, Robert Kraft commended the recipients who were selected from nearly 400 applications the New England Patriots Foundation received this year from nonprofit organizations looking to recognize their outstanding volunteers. “That’s basically six percent. It shows how each one of you, how special you are – you had a chance of six out of 100 to get this award,” Patriots Chairman and CEO Robert Kraft said. “What really touched me too is to know in these times there are that many people out there trying to take care of the community.”