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Oak Park students collecting Beanie Babies for Troops

posted on Nov 26 2009 0 Comments


By Sophia Fischer [email protected]
Beanie Babies and Webkinz are saving lives overseas, and Oak Park High School students are lending a hand..

The school’s student council, known as the Associated Student Body, is collecting the plush toys from Mon., Nov. 30 through Fri., Dec. 4. Collection boxes will be set up throughout the campus. The public may drop off donations in the school office at 899 Kanan Road.

The stuffed toys will be brought to Operation Gratitude in Van Nuys, where they will be packed and shipped to United States soldiers serving in Afghanistan. The nonprofit sends care packages to overseas troops. Operation Gratitude has been sending the toys to troops since 2004. Soldiers have written letters of appreciation telling how the stuffed animals not only boost morale among the troops but have also saved their lives.

One Army captain wrote, “We gave that Beanie Baby to an Iraqi child who then gave us a tip. He told us that bad people were making bombs in his neighborhood. The information he gave us led to a major terrorist cell being captured and countless lives, American and Iraqi, being saved.”

Others wrote of similar incidents in which soldiers presented candy and toys to local children who then provided information on where roadside bombs were hidden.

When Oak Park High senior Steven Rich heard about the toy project he wanted to contribute. Steven and his family—parents Jonathan and Becky and sister Emily—have been Operation Gratitude volunteers since April, packing care packages.

“I have friends who are in active service; it’s a cause close to my heart,” Steven said.

He had already encouraged Oak Park’s elementary school students to write letters to troops. The letters are included in the care packages.

“When Steven said, ‘I want to do something in our community,’ we were going to just start on a small scale and ask our friends for Beanie Babies,” Becky Rich said.

She credited Shelly Resnick, the mother of Steven’s best friend Matthew, with encouraging the project to be brought to the high school.

Matthew invited Steven to give a presentation about the idea to the student council, of which Matthew is a member. The council, made up of about 40 students, was supportive of the project, Matthew said.

“We believe very strongly in our troops. We support what they’re doing 100 percent,” said Matthew, a senior. “If they’re willing to risk their lives to protect our country, we can do something to help them out.”

The council leads a number of annual schoolwide community service efforts, including food and blood drives, but this was the first time a student who is not a council member came in with an idea, said Matthew, who has known Steven since kindergarten.

The entire Rich family, including Steven’s older brother Michael and his girlfriend, will spend the day after Thanksgiving packing boxes at Operation Gratitude.

“When we worked there two weeks ago there was a 97-year-old woman who had knit 140 scarves and hats for the service men and women to stay warm. These went into the packages,” Becky Rich said. “It really choked me up.”


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