Monday, December 3, 2012

Toys for Troops Christmas 2012: It's a Wrap!

Our 2012 Toys for Troops Christmas boxes event was a phenomenal success. I only have time for a quick post before I dash off to get in line at the post office this morning, but I want to take a minute to tell you about our day.
  • We had an abundance of gifts and volunteers this year.
  • Dozens more worked beforehand, shopping, dropping off donations at my home and office.
  • We had over 600 letters from children, to divide up in every box.
  • Our donation jar had $850.00 in it by the time we left yesterday, bringing the total to $2200.00—enough to cover our shopping and shipping expenses for this event.
Once again, I sit humbled at how much the community rallied to make all of this happen. I'm amazed at our various volunteers and supporters, ranging from ages 3 to 80. Veterans, firefighters, and police officers stepped up to work side by side with soldiers' families, and yet half of those that showed up didn't have any direct military ties—they  just want to support our troops!

Click here to see local news coverage of the event.

And while I'm here, I will also mention that I did win GM's "Our Town, Our Heroes" contest mentioned in the last post, thanks to so many friends voting and rallying for their friends to vote. I'm riding around in style this week!

Off to the post office now!

Thank youu. Thank you so much!


Saturday, November 10, 2012

Driving the Midwest and 2012 Christmas Gifts for Soldiers Event

My cup runneth over, these days. Just as I am gearing up to push, push, push the 2012 Christmas Event for Toys for Troops, I have been nominated and accepted for General Motor's "Our Town, Our Heroes" contest.

I suddenly find myself promoting my cause—which is easy, because I do love my soldier babies—and also pushing *myself*, which I find incredibly difficult.

But if I rally for votes, I stand to win $500 in gift cards, or one $500 gift card, or something, which will come in handy for Christmas gifts for my soldier babies, so rally I will. Because:

There you have it. I am scrambling, because WE need:
  • We need soldiers.
  • We need letters from your children.
  • We need cookies.
  • We need Christmas gifts: DVDs and socks and gee-gaws that you'd put in your own brother, sister, child, spouse's stocking.
  • We need $13.45 to send a box.
  • We need to take care of our soldier babies.

In the meantime I promote TWO events simultaneously and count on those listening to me knowing that I'll hush up in just a minute when this big thing is over.

It's been a bit of a media frenzy. Newspapers, radio stations, and tv stations have picked up on these things, and I still have to summon courage to face them all. Today I asked a radio interviewer to let me know whether I was going to be live or recorded, "so that I will know how nervous to be."

In that interview, I was asked the one question that I am asked over, and over again: "Why? What does it mean to you to do this?"

The first time I was asked that question in a television interview, I broke down on camera. My son was about 10 weeks into his first tour that lasted 16 months. To feel so helpless, and then to have stumbled on something that contributed positively to his day, and have it branch out to his comrades, and then to other troops from all over the U.S....

Well, it was so just much better than being able to do nothing.

After 6 years—after waiting for my son to come back from Iraq twice, after meeting hundreds of other soldiers and their parents, spouses, siblings, and children, hanging out on a few army bases, working with Veterans, Warrior Transition Battalions, and Family Readiness Groups—doing nothing remains out of the question for me.

I still cannot answer that question--in front of a camera, on the telephone, or in writing—without crying.

Do Something.

(Oh. And please: Vote for me!)

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Update: August 2012

I'm back with a few more Toys for Troops Highlights!

150 of ours came home in late spring/early summer, and I'm back to scrambling for names and addresses. There are about 25 on the list now, and we hope to add at least 100 more by Christmas. Christmas care packages go out in 13 weeks!

As I mentioned in the last post, I just received the names and addresses of 5 platoon leaders, and we introduced ourselves to them recently with a letter and 100 dozen cookies. I have also sent battery-operated misting fans to distribute to those working in the field.

So, that's where we are now, and Champaign's News-Gazette was kind enough to highlight our endeavors after I rallied on Facebook. It was published yesterday, here:

And now that it's out there, I'd like to back up and acknowledge everyone that helped make just those two projects happen.

The Misting Fan Project


Those that follow me on Facebook may remember that I just tossed out a request: "Buy one of these for a soldier, and I'll mail it for you."

Urbana VFW 630 caught wind of my request, and offered to help me out:

They told me to shop or ship, whatever we needed.

I contacted the makers of the fan, O2 Cool, and they were very helpful, offering me wholesale prices—under one condition: I had to have a resale certificate.

I do not have a resale certificate, Sam I Am, so back to the drawing board for me. I put out another APB, and Sara at Dandelion Vintage Clothing, offered to order the fans for me. I cleared it with O2 Cool, and thanks to Sara, we were back in business!

 Shop here!

100 Dozen Cookies kettlecorn, puppy chow, and rice krispie treats—you don't think I made all that myself, do you? I made a double batch of chocolate krinkles, then the majority of my work consisted of meeting people in parking lots to pick up the goods.

Big-big Thank You to all of our bakers, and to everyone that heard of the project, popped checks in the mail, handed them to me at work, and made Paypal donations. Our bank balance, once again, after shopping and shipping for these two projects, increased. It never ceases to amaze me.

A Bonus Heartwarming Story: 

The day I took the cookies to the post office, a gentleman in the parking lot offered to help me carry boxes. I thanked him and promised him the load was relatively light: "just cookies heading to Afghanistan."

We were the only two customers in the post office so of course I let him go first in line. When he was done, he turned around and folded this into my hand:

I'm as paralyzed about what to write now, as I was speaking then. I'm sure I got "thank you" out about a dozen times while he was racing out.

These are the tales I tell my soldier babies. While I am feeding them spaghetti, I grab their chins and say "strangers just hand me cash to take care of you, y'know."


The card I popped in to all of the boxes.

Since everyone isn't pictured there special thanks to bakers Val Deichman, Nicole Philyaw, Will Page, Sandi Smith, Denise Halberstadt, Sandy Linneman, Katie Linneman & Mark Baker, Tammy and Aryn Zymkie, Barb Comtois, and Sarah Westhoff .

Here's a gratuitous photo of me with the Miller High Life "Give a Veteran a Piece of the High Life" Humvee. That poor guy was ready to pack it up and go home for the day, but I played my "I have a son in the Army" card, and made him get out and take my picture. 

And don't forget: If you have a loved one serving in Kuwait or Afghanistan, we'd love to send him or her a box of goodies. Mail me at, and I'll tell you more!

Thursday, August 16, 2012

"Moore's OK"

This post has been weeks in the making. I tag up to it and run, unable to collect myself. I don't know where to begin, how to fast forward, or how to wrap it up. I'll start with these blessed words that I heard first, when answering my phone to my son on the other end, 10 weeks or so ago:

"Mom. Moore's ok..." I was crying before I got out the words "what happened?"

"He's on his way to Germany. He's ok. Afghanistan. Roadside explosive, his buddy stepped on it. He's ok. We're waiting for more news."

Steven Moore, or "Steebmo," I dubbed him when I declared he needed a pet name, was my son's gunner in Iraq. The first tour was hellacious, and this young man saved my kid's life on more than one occasion. When they were released for leave upon returning home, Steebmo opted to join Brian in my home, before they went to visit his Mama.

Best Mother's Day Ever, 2008.

We celebrated their coming home in ridiculous fashion.
Lord, I wish I could do it for each and every one of them. 

Hey, while you're home on leave, resting up from a year in hell,
would you mind blowing the pine needles off of Grandma's house?
"Yes ma'am. I'd be glad to."
(Holy shit, I actually put them to work.)

He and and Brian served another year in Iraq, in '09-10. Upon their return, Brian was moved to Ft. Hood, Texas, while Steven and his new family went to Ft. Lewis, Washington. Steven touched base with me early this year that he was going to Afghanistan, but I lost track of his deployment date.

I was merrily blogging, a month earlier, about how I was in a place in this world that I had little left to worry about, all the while I had soldier babies in Afghanistan. I feel a punch in my stomach every time I think of it.


Moore is ok. I've been hesitant to tell his story, or to bother him or his wife too much, for fear of sensationalizing his injuries, or just getting in their face when I can't imagine what they have been through. Of the hundreds of troops we've sent packages to, my Steebmo is the first I've known personally that has been injured. How it completely undid me is fodder for another post.

He has a broken finger, artery damage in  his arm, and lower tissue damage. He is home with his beautiful wife and children now, and begins physical therapy soon.

His comrade lost both of his legs that day. When I finally got up the nerve to ask my son about him, he said, "it's crazy, Mom," and we both sobbed like babies.

Steven's wife has kept us as much in the know as we need to be. I have utmost respect for her, and her protecting her family and her husband with gentle updates that they needed space.

She is Mama Bear, and yet has taken the time to share with me that:

The rest of Moore's company, still with several months left to serve in Afghanistan, has lost 20% of their troops to injury, death, PTSD, and suicide. Morale, as you can imagine, is very low.

That the rest of his company struggles now, trying to hold it together in the midst of these statistics, has brought me roaring out of my place of complacency. A Toys for Troops APB has been put out on the wire, and cookie bakers came out of the woodwork.

Five platoon leaders of this company have cookies galore coming their way, along with a letter asking them to check us out, contact us, and if they think us worthy, to send us the names of their troops.

My message remains steadfast: we might not be saving the world, but if we change the direction of even one lousy day, we've made a difference.

We remain, warriors for warriors.

Stay tuned. 

(Love you Steebmo & Kesha!)