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Local woman whose son died fighting in Ukraine travels to the country, shares her healing experience 

Terri Hepworth in Ukraine after she met some soldiers. | Courtesy To Ukraine with Love
REXBURG — A Rexburg mother who lost her son in 2022 after he fought in Ukraine recently returned from a trip to Ukraine and said it was healing to walk the streets her son did and serve the people.  
Terri Hepworth’s son, Dane Partridge, 34, died on October 11, 2022, after being critically injured fighting alongside Ukrainian forces.
April 25 marked two years since Partridge had left Idaho for Ukraine. 
“He found himself there, and I saw that,” Hepworth said of her son. 

Dane Partridge in Ukraine. | Courtesy Terri Hepworth
Partridge had joined the international legion of foreign fighters, a group of volunteers from countries around the world fighting alongside Ukrainians. Click here to read more about him and his story.
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Partridge, along with other men, were clearing trenches when they were ambushed by two Russian vehicles. The men were caught in a firefight. He was wounded and died in a hospital while on life support. Read his obituary here. 
It was Hepworth’s hope to go on a trip to Ukraine to give back to the people who cared for her son and thank them. 
She teamed up with To Ukraine with Love, a charity that delivers housing, food and other essentials to those affected by the war. Svitlana Miller is the founder of To Ukraine with Love. The organization was founded in Idaho Falls and is now based in Utah. 

Svitlana Miller is the founder of To Ukraine with Love. | Courtesy To Ukraine with Love
The trip
Hepworth left for Ukraine on April 16 and came back on April 23. Fifteen people were on the humanitarian trip headed by To Ukraine with Love. 
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“This organization is one of the best organizations that anybody could be affiliated with. They are so good,” Hepworth said. “It’s incredible the things they are doing and what I was able to do.”
To Ukraine with Love Donor Relations Director Nancy Cadjan was one of the people who went on the trip with Hepworth. She was happy Hepworth could join. 
“Having Terri added a dimension to the trip that I don’t know if everybody expected because of her strong emotional feelings for Ukraine and her desire to thank them for loving her son,” Cadjan said. “And so it was a wonderful addition to the trip as a whole. The trip was miraculous.”

Part of the group on the humanitarian trip. Terri Hepworth is on the far right in the front. Next to her is Nancy Cadjan. | Courtesy To Ukraine with Love
Service in Ukraine
Hepworth was able to participate in many acts of service, including helping at a hospital.
“I got to hug some wounded soldiers and tell them that this mama’s heart is with you,” she said. 
The humanitarian group gifted homes and visited schools in the city of Kharkiv’s metro station and in Dergachi where students attend in the bunker of their school. It had been hit by mortar fire, Cadjan said. 
In Chernihiv, the group visited a Hot Meal Center. According To Ukraine with Love online, there are Hot Meal Centers in six locations and two satellite locations. Each center feeds 1,000 to 1,800 people daily at a cost of 33 cents a meal. Meals include soup, salad, meat, bread and dessert.
“Some of these people have been in food lines for two years, and it’s the only hot meal they get,” Hepworth shared. 
They visited a community cultural center in Novoselivka, where they made trench candles and camouflage nets for the soldiers.
“I think the hardest thing for me was in one of the centers we went to … I am making a camouflage net and I am thinking, ‘This is where my son was,’” Hepworth said, crying. “And these candles — it isn’t for light, it’s for heat in the trenches. My son was in the trenches.”
Hepworth saw destroyed homes and buildings but noticed how grateful the Ukrainians were for the help they received and that Hepworth let her son come to Ukraine to fight. 
“With what all of these people have gone through, the gratitude and the kindness and the determination to keep moving forward is there,” Hepworth said. “I have never known more kinder and earnest people.” 
“Literally, we stop at the gas station in Ukraine, and Terri would talk to people there, and everyone was like, ‘Thank you for your willingness to sacrifice your son and for your son’s sacrifice,’” Cadjan added. 

Terri Hepworth helping with a camouflage net. | Courtesy To Ukraine with Love
A surprise
Hepworth got a surprise in one of the villages she was in. 
Cadjan told that about four months ago, she was on a Zoom call where a woman named Lubov had lost her son and her home. Lubov’s son had died fighting in the front. Cadjan said she was gifted a new home. 
After Cadjan learned Hepworth would be coming on the humanitarian trip, she thought it would be a perfect opportunity for her to help heal another mother’s heart. 
“We went to Lubov’s home and they met and spoke with each other and shared their grief,” Cadjan said. “Terri shared her understanding that life goes on and that they will be friends forever. As we walked out of the house, there’s a new sign that says, ‘Dane Partridge Street.’ So the street was renamed after her son and beautifully enough, the sign sits … for Lubov to see every day.”
The street sign is in the village of Novoselivka. 
“I had no idea it was there. All of a sudden, they said, ‘Did you notice?’ And I thought, ‘Oh! There it was!’” Hepworth said when she saw the sign for the first time. 

The Dane Partridge Street sign. | Courtesy To Ukraine with Love
Honored with a flag
During the trip, Hepworth was also honored with a signed Ukrainian flag. 
“In Dergachi, Mayor Vyacheslav Zadorenko awarded Terri with a certificate of gratitude. Then Senior Sergeant Baidukov Yaroslav presented a flag signed by soldiers fighting on the front line in Zaporozhye,” Cadjan said. “They know what war means. They know what losing a family member means. They understand a brother or a son not coming home. So these people, they understood Terri’s sacrifice.” 
Hepworth gave them her American flag that she had taught Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts how to fold. One of the last to handle the flag was her son. 
It’s a trip that Hepworth won’t soon forget, and if she has another opportunity, she said she would go again.
“It brought a lot of closure and a lot of healing. I was able to thank so many people and give them hope and to let them know that this mother’s heart is with them and always will be,” she said. “Every soldier I came across, I hugged them and told them, ‘Thank you for allowing my son to fight with you, for loving my son, thank you for letting him find himself here.’”

Senior Sergeant Baidukov Yaroslav presented a flag signed by soldiers fighting on the front line in Zaporozhye to Terri Hepworth. | Courtesy To Ukraine with Love
To Ukraine with Love
If you’d like to learn more about To Ukraine with Love, click here. The charity accepts donations to help Ukrainians. 
“You don’t have to be wealthy to make a difference. Every dollar counts,” Cadjan said. 
There are several humanitarian trips to come. Cadjan said it’s an opportunity to have a one-on-one connection with people.  
“The most important service that they do when they are there is just listening, just being there, just hugging people,” Cadjan said. 

The village of Borodyanka. | Courtesy To Ukraine with Love
The post Local woman whose son died fighting in Ukraine travels to the country, shares her healing experience  appeared first on East Idaho News.

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