Sheets and pillows, sweat socks and Slim Jims pack the shed, freshly built, in the backyard of Mary Conboy's Roxborough home. She's a military mom, and this is her stockpile, ready to be boxed and shipped to U.S. troops in Iraq.
Adam, the oldest of her seven children - a big, fun-loving kid - planted the idea when he called home just before Mother's Day last year from Anbar province in Iraq.
He asked for 40 sets of sheets, one for each member of his Marine platoon, to make their foul, sweat-soaked mattresses a little more bearable.
"Operation Bedding," he jokingly called it.
Adam never got his sheets. Six days after his call, Conboy returned home from the mall to find a Marine sitting on her couch.
"We regret to inform you . . ."
Adam was 21.
Operation Bedding was, in a way, his final gift to his mother. It has provided a cushion for her grief, surrounding her with support from family, friends and perfect strangers who have rallied to help.
"Everyone I meet, when I tell them the cause, they say, 'How can we help you?' " Conboy said.
Typical of the outpouring is a benefit planned for Saturday in Roxborough's Gorgas Park to raise money for the Adam Conboy Memorial Fund so she can keep sending care packages to the war zone.
At first, it was just going to be a small flea market organized by Donna Palmer, a neighbor looking to de-clutter her house. As word spread, it grew into an Armed Forces Day community fair with food and drinks donated by businesses, live music, a bake sale, a parade, and military displays.
"It's going to be a magnificent day," Conboy said.
Palmer even enlisted the Philadelphia branch of 1-800-Got-Junk?, which has pledged to haul away unsold flea market items, free.
"Any time somebody says 'veteran,' I perk up," said Got Junk's general manager, John Vandeberg. "I'm a veteran."
The bulk of the proceeds will go toward Operation Bedding, though Conboy insisted that there be no pressure on those who bought flea-market booths to donate their earnings. The benefit committee's goal is $10,000, Palmer said.
That sounds like a lot, but it goes quickly when you're shipping hundreds of sheets and pillows, and cartons of soap and candy overseas. Conboy has no idea how much she has spent on postage so far, except that the most expensive shipment cost $1,300.
Bedding donations have poured in from across the region, especially from schools. The contributions overtook the dining room, so Conboy's husband, Gary Warner, built the shed. Conboy's former husband, Charles, Adam's father, helps pack boxes and ferry them to the bulk mailing center near the airport.
"We feel the troops over there need to know that somebody other than their family and friends are thinking about them," Charles Conboy said. "Adam's medic, who came to visit us, said there were fights over the pepperoni sticks we sent."
The Third Battalion, Third Marines, First Platoon - Adam's group - was the first to receive a shipment from Operation Bedding. The Conboys sent it a month or so after Adam's funeral, which drew hundreds of mourners and an honor guard of motorcyclists to St. John the Baptist Church in Manayunk.
When the Conboys hear of a need, they respond. An Army officer asked whether they could send movies so soldiers would have entertainment on nights off. They shipped 100 DVDs. A neighbor's son's unit will get sheets, pillows and snacks.
"We'll keep this up until the conflict is resolved," Charles Conboy said.
Said Mary Conboy: "Everybody needs a pillow and clean socks."
The gratitude of the troops keeps them going.
"It was like Christmas," wrote one.
"I cannot thank you enough for making hell comfortable," wrote another.
"It comforts you a little," said Charles Conboy, his voice heavy with emotion, "but it doesn't get any easier, I'll tell you. I miss him every day."
In Mary Conboy's home, Adam's image is everywhere. As a 2-year-old at the beach. Cuddling his little sisters. Cutting up with his mom on his last visit home. In dusty combat fatigues and Hollywood shades.
"That was taken the morning he was shot," Mary Conboy said. "They had worked 18-hour days all week, and he was still smiling."
Adam didn't excel in high school, and he wasn't interested in college.
"In the Marines, he graduated third in his class," his mother said. "I've never seen him so proud."
He was a lance corporal, a rifleman, killed by nonhostile fire. By another Marine. That's all Mary Conboy will say.
In a videotape sent to the family after Adam's death, the guys in his platoon described him as a monster in the weight room. Even more, he was someone who made them laugh when they were down and scared.
"Mary," said one, staring into the camera, "you did an awesome job raising Conboy."
The family marked the first anniversary of his death yesterday at a memorial service in Harrisburg organized by Pennsylvania Hometown Heroes.
"It was inspiring," Mary Conboy said.
"I hope that, in the future, I can remember the Mother's Day where he called from boot camp instead of the one where they told me he was killed," she said.
The call from boot camp - now that was Adam through and through. It was Mother's Day 2005. The phone rang early. Mary couldn't imagine who'd be calling.
"Mom, they said if we were able to do 13 extra pull-ups we got a phone call home. I got to 11, and I didn't think I could do it . . . then I thought of your face when you answered the phone."
If You Go
The Adam Conboy Memorial Fund benefit will take place from 10 a.m.
to 4 p.m. Saturday (rain date is next Sunday) at Gorgas Park, Ridge Avenue and Hermitage Street, Roxborough. For more information on Operation Bedding, visit the Web site www.adamconboymemorialfund.org.
To view a tribute video of Adam Conboy's service, go to http://go.philly.com/conboyEndText