MARINE CORPS BASE -- For many, the weekends are a time to relax, catch up on sleep and do fun things that can’t be done on a work day. Some even take pride in how little is accomplished during the weekend, stating rest and relaxation as the best way to pass the time. But one devoted Marine has a different idea on how to spend a weekend.
Sgt. Christopher M. Champagne, a meteorological and oceanographic forecaster with 2nd Marine Expeditionary Brigade, and native of Savannah, Georgia, finds his joy on the weekends in his role as a new father, husband and volunteer for the Tarawa Terrace Community Center.
“I wish we had a hundred more just like him,” said Lorraine Fuller, the recreation specialist of Tarawa Terrace Community Center. “Such motivated and dedicated volunteers don’t exist in the regular population.”
Champagne has dedicated approximately 200 hours per year to volunteering for a variety of causes. Before moving to Camp Lejeune, Champagne was stationed at Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, North Carolina, where he volunteered with the Single Marine Program. Through the SMP, Champagne participated in beach cleanups, Toys for Tots toy drives, and retirement home visits. He also spent time helping with the Special Olympics and local animal shelters. It was through his volunteering that Champagne met his wife.
“We weren’t much for partying or drinking so, instead, we spent our time volunteering through the Single Marine Program,” said Champagne. “My wife’s favorite thing was working at the animal shelter.”
Now, Champagne and his wife often give their time to the Tarawa Terrace Community Center. There he does whatever the employees’ need, such as setting up or tearing down equipment for events, supervising games and bounce houses, or painting faces during a children’s carnival.
“It’s fun interacting with the people here. You get to see the kids, play games with them and have a good time,” said Champagne. “A lot of the events end up being just as fun for us as they are for the kids.”
Fuller said that Champagne is an invaluable resource to their center and through him they have met other dedicated volunteers.
“Without volunteers like him, we couldn’t put on the events that we do. Our community center wouldn’t function,” said Fuller. “He is always recruiting others that he works with to help us as well. Creating new volunteers is the gift that keeps on giving.”
Champagne’s hard work and selflessness has set him apart as someone to look up to in his unit. His charity has not gone unnoticed by those around him.
“He’s always encouraging other Marines to get out and give back to the community in whatever way possible,” said Sgt. Joseph L. Simmons IV, a METOC analyst forecaster with 2nd Intelligence Battalion, and native of Mobile, Alabama. “He definitely sets a high standard to achieve. I know many junior Marines that aspire to be like Sgt. Champagne.”
The amount of time Champagne spends volunteering isn’t for any special recognition. For him, giving back to others is simply something that he has been raised to do.
“When I was a single guy, it was just something that I had grown up doing. I’ve always been involved in volunteering; it’s been a good way to spend my time,” said Champagne. “Now that I’m a dad, I continue volunteering so that, when my kid gets older, these types of programs will be available to them.”
While Champagne maintains pride in his work as a volunteer, he is quick to point out the many others who make the events possible. He is especially fond of the coordinators he works with every weekend.
“All the volunteers are an important piece of the puzzle, and I might volunteer a couple hundred hours a year but that dwarfs in comparison to the amount of time that the volunteer coordinators put in,” said Champagne. “Without those coordinators, this stuff doesn’t happen.”
Simmons describes the work that Champagne does as exceptional because whenever they volunteer together, Champagne is always recognized as a constant supportive figure to the community. People know who he is almost as though he were a permanent part of that organization and not just a volunteer, Simmons said.
“He’s very devoted,” said Simmons. “He’s the kind of person who would give his own shirt off his back to someone in need.”