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Run will help Marine with home improvements

| June 26, 2024 6:05 AM


By TAYLOR INMAN 

For the Hungry Horse News

After an explosive hit Warren Childs’ truck in Afghanistan in 2009, the Marine was left with a neurological condition that is only getting worse over time.

He now lives in west Kalispell with his family to enjoy life to the fullest as his seizures and tremors progress but is in need of some major upgrades to his house. 

“When we started work on the house, I was doing whatever I could. We did a refinance on the house to help fix some things. But we ended up having to spend a bunch of that money on some medical expenses for one of my sons,” Childs said.  

He reached out to veteran assistance programs for a grant, like those with Veterans Affairs, but had no luck. However, a connection with the nonprofit The Frozen Chosen could make his dreams into reality.  

“I’m a Marine Corps veteran as well, and I said, ‘I don’t care what it takes, our organization is going to help you,’” The Frozen Chosen Founder Luke Opp said. “My goal is to fully fund his house remodel and we’re well on our way to doing that.” 

Based in Northwest Montana, The Frozen Chosen works to create a community for veterans and also assist with financial hardships. Opp is a Columbia Falls native, now living in Bigfork.

Opp and Childs are kindred spirits, as both are heavily invested in helping other veterans. A building contractor, Opp is providing free labor to make the upgrades and renovations to Child’s home, but through Project Continued Freedom is raising funds for the cost of materials.  

The nonprofit is holding a 4 Miles to Freedom fun run on July 6 at Happy’s Inn west of Kalispell. All the proceeds go toward the Childs family. 

Childs and his wife Christine moved their family to Montana by doctor’s orders, he said. Neurologists at the Veterans Affairs’ Tampa Polytrauma Rehabilitation Center told him to go somewhere he enjoyed, with low environmental stressors, and away from the busyness of the East Coast.  

Childs had put in many successful years with the Marines before a seizure ended his career. According to information from The Frozen Chosen, Childs and his dog Ringo located over a dozen improvised explosive devices during his time overseas. After he left the Marine Corps to work for a company that trained IED dogs and their handlers, training 300 Marines to handle bomb dogs like Ringo.  

During this time, he continued to suffer from misdiagnosed seizures before a major one took him out of the job. This began his push for better care, and his family moved to Florida so he could receive treatment in Tampa. 

After moving to the Flathead Valley, Childs said he had a couple of easy-going years before his tremors and seizures started to occur more frequently.  

“I was working on trying to just put some drywall up in one of my kid’s rooms and my wife found me on the floor like 30 minutes later because I collapsed,” Childs said. “The tremors had flared up so bad and I couldn’t get off the floor on my own. That kept happening, and we knew something was going to come down the pipe eventually.” 

Though his four children are accustomed to seeing their dad have a seizure or tremors, he typically goes to his bedroom or bathroom to recover. Their communal bathroom near the living room gets the most use as it’s the only full bathroom. So, that’s at the top of the project list for Opp. 

“We’re going to remodel his master bathroom to make it [Americans with Disabilities Act] compliant, as well as the common area bathroom since it’s been overused,” Opp said, adding that they will also widen the hallway to make it ADA compliant, as well. 

He often needs help to get into the bathroom or bedroom, so having a widened hallway will provide plenty of room to maneuver.  

A new recovery room in the house will allow for a guest room and office space and assist in Childs’ efforts to assist struggling veterans. Childs and his wife started taking in veterans struggling with suicidal ideation and depression 11 years ago.  

Since Childs had battled depression before and found hope on the other side, he started getting calls and knocks at the door from vets or their families asking if he would be willing to intervene.  

If it seems safe for them to come hang out for a while, Childs fires up his smoker while Christine makes a run to the grocery store. He said he doesn’t want to brag, but he is a very good cook. 

“That’s where two-thirds of what we do for veterans happens — it happens in the kitchen or on the back deck. You’d be blown away, just how much bringing people into a home where they feel safe, they feel like they can talk ... and then throwing a good meal into them, how much of a positive effect you can have on people,” Childs said.  

So far $16,000 has been raised for the home renovations. Opp is hopeful the upcoming fun run will continue to raise funds for the family as he spends his free time making renovations. The overall goal for the project is estimated to be around $157,000.  

Opp said the overarching theme of The Frozen Chosen is sacrifice, which comes in many forms.  

“The same for all these people that have committed to running or walking this fun run, they are committing to helping Warren’s family,” Opp said. “They’re sacrificing something, whether it be the Fourth of July weekend ... they’re also sacrificing their time and their money ... so I want to make it known that I truly appreciate that.” 

The 4 Miles to Freedom fun run will take place at Happy’s Inn on July 6, starting at 7:30 a.m. There will be a 1-mile loop for kids under the age of 12, as well as a silent auction with items sourced from local businesses. For more information or to sign up, visit runsignup.com and search for 4 Miles to Freedom.