Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Christmas Gifts to Soldiers

DECEMBER 5, 2010
1:00 to 4:00 p.m. 

1801 W. Springfield Ave., Champaign, IL


  • Gift cards to online companies that ship to APO addresses (,,, etc)
  • CDs/DVDs
  • Phone cards (good from Iraq)
  • Handheld electronic games
  • Current Magazines
  • Small board games
  • Coozies for bottles and cans
  • Tan, green, or black t-shirts
  • Black or tan mechanics gloves
  • Boot-length socks
  • Small white ankle socks (female)
  • Med/sm black cotton underwear (female) 
  • Shower gels (male/female)
  • Sunglasses
  • Times watches
  • AA batteries
  • Leatherman/Gerber tools
  • Metal-bodied flashlights and headlamps
  • Home made cookies or gourmet snack items
  • Anything you can think of for a male or female soldier to open on Christmas morning.

    If you can't make it to the event, you can still drop off donations at Village Inn anytime between now and the event.

    If you can't deliver, we can schedule a pick-up. E-mail me at

    If you're not "from around here," you can still participate! 
    Families from all over the United States are joining us to send Christmas gifts, letters, and goodies to soldiers. E-mail for a name & address, and some mailing tips! 

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Lincoln Trail School Rocks! Grand Total: $3300.00

(Photo by Sharon Frick)

What a day, what a wonderful day.

Lincoln Trail School, year after year, does a phenomenal job of honoring our Veterans. It is their biggest project of the year, and it shows. Hundreds of veterans attend. There is music. There are videos of children  interviewing veterans—Korean War Veterans were highlighted this year. Bagpipes play while we remember lost soldiers, and a chilling rendition of Taps is played from two buglers in opposite corners of the gym. And each year, my seat finds me listening to the Star Spangled Banner with the gruff voice of older veterans in one ear, and Boy Scouts' voices, like bells, in the other.

I woke up, this morning, feeling particularly emotional. I'm not altogether sure why, I just was. These children, they had done so much. The local TV station had slipped and given away the amount of the donation to be awarded to me: $1800! Doh! I knew they wanted it to be a secret, but now I knew.

$1800 would get us through the years' end, where I can then get things in order and focus on fund raising in Spring '11. We'll get by, we always do.

But still. $1800 is a LOT of money, and I just teared up every time I thought of it. And I got busy thinking of the notes I'd received from soldiers that have received our boxes, and contemplating that my own son is home from Iraq, oh, my God, he was in Iraq! It still shocks me, sometimes.

I was just in a mood this morning. Feeling emotional and blessed, and amazed, once again, at the kindness of other people. These kids, and the staff, they just did this for me. They asked me if they could do this. I tried to practice my little thank you speech in the car, but every time I got to "I received an e-mail from a soldier that we sent boxes to..." or, "my own son just arrived home from Iraq," I started bawling. I switched from speech-practicing to chiding myself: "Buckle UP, girl! You can't go up there and start crying, you'll scare those kids half to death!"

So I buckled up. I did. But then there was the Anthem, and the bagpipes, and Taps, for heck-sake, and I got to sit with the distinguished members of the Color Guard. And those kids, and the interviews with the veterans...boy, they chipped away at my resolve, but I was fine.

And then it was my turn, and an articulate young man got on stage and spoke of their fundraising endeavours, while 3 other children untied and unrolled a giant check, made out to Toys for Troops:

Twenty-three hundred, ninety-three dollars, and seventy-eight cents.

Not $1800.00. As I remember, the wind was knocked right out of me, and then I burst into tears. Yes, yes, that's exactly what I did, but I had a minute to compose myself as a member of the Color Guard took the stage, and presented me with another $100 to add to the total.

I started out my little speech by informing the audience that I was feeling a bit emotional, which was an absolutely unnecessary opening statement. My hands were shaking, my voice was shaking, and I think that I told them they were amazing for having quadrupled their goal, before I read SPC Josh Hanks' note to them, and told them that one SPC Brian Jolley had reported back to Fort Benning yesterday, so he missed the program by one day, but said to tell them hello. It was something like that, I think, that I said.

I got back to my seat, still choked up and shaking from stage fright, when the third-graders broke into My Country Tis of Thee. As I tried to calm myself, the white-haired veteran sitting next to me, a member of the color guard, reached over and took my hand. My right hand, in his white-cotton-gloved left, and he held it tight for the entire song. I was instantly calmed.

And, it was just a wonderful, wonderful day, did I say that already?

What I haven't told you yet is that there was a bit of cash and a few more checks in the envelope from Lincoln Trail, and I received an additional $700 in outside donations for this project.

Together, we raised $3300.00 for Toys for Troops, and added 47 names and addresses to our mailing list. Our soldiers are covered for the holidays, and well into the next year. We are, quite simply, afloat because of these children, their teachers, and the staff of Lincoln Trail School.

And now, I've run out of anything to say, but Thank You.

Thank you, thank you, thank you.


Oh, and one more thing, I'll announce it again tomorrow:



1:00, DECEMBER 5, 2011.

Get your cookies, socks, DVDs, and various gifties ready for wrapping, packing, taping, and shipping. Details to come.

Thank you again.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

A George for a G.I.

Veteran's Day is Thursday, and once again we're working with the students at Lincoln Trail Elementary School for their Veteran's Day project.

I have a little secret: When they contacted me to help me out a month or so ago, I turned them down. I regretfully informed them that Toys for Troops has 2 immediate tasks at hand: 1) Rebuilding our mailing list and 2) Fundraising.

We're low on soldiers—last years' list has come home. And we're low on money; we felt the financial pinch of the last couple of years along with the rest of the country. I pointed out in a recent newsletter that we're proud to have stretched the initial $3K of donations to last 4 years; most of our events covered themselves, financially, allowing us to keep shopping and mailing throughout the year. Last year's mailing events, however, were almost completely out-of-pocket for TFT, and although we still have a balance in our account, there's not enough left to send Thanksgiving boxes this year, and November would be spent raising money to get Holiday boxes out.

I am sorry, I told them. Sadly, we cannot work with you this year.

Sniff. I thought that was the end of it, but I got an e-mail back the next morning. What if we earned some money for you? What if every kid brings one dollar? What if we hold a bake sale and an auction, and we give all the money to Toys for Troops?

Lord, I just teared up writing that. They did, though, they've been bringing in funds for Toys for Troops! They started a campaign called Bring a George for a G.I. They're baking and they're selling, they are working their little backsides off for our soldiers!

These kids motivated ME to get it in gear too! I got our newsletter out. I've encouraged the folks on our mailing list to send in their own donations to add to Lincoln Trails' totals, and I've had donations roll into our PayPal count. Our mailing list has increased from 2 soldiers to 50 soldiers.

And they're each going to get holiday boxes from us. 

There are 2 more days to help these kids help us! Here's how:
  • Send a donation to Nicci Miller, c/o Lincoln Trail School, 102 E. State Street, Mahomet, IL. 
  • Click on the PayPal button on the sidebar of this page, or at
  • Forward this post or these links to anyone that has a deployed soldier in their life, so that we can add them to our mailing list
  • If you're not on our e-newsletter list, sign up at, or email me at for a copy of the last one.

And get ready to gear up for Holiday Boxes, to be mailed a month from now. (Event to be announced soon!)

I'll see these kids Thursday morning, and tell you how it goes!