Fun fundraiser will benefit military children

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A silent auction and mini-carnival Friday evening and Saturday will raise money and solicit gifts for “Hero Packs” for children of soon-to-be deployed National Guard or Reserve soldiers.

Operation: Military Kids FUNdraiser Spectacular offers products and gift cards from local merchants as silent auction items for adults while the mini-carnival provides fun games for youngsters.

The event takes place from 5 to 8 p.m. Friday and 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday in the lower level of the Stahlberg & Sutherlund building at 100 Cooperative Way off West Reserve Drive. The lower level carries the address of 201 Cooperative Way.

 Cold Stone Creamery will be there Saturday with its mobile unit, said Kathie VanDeraa, director of Adopt a Troop, which is sponsoring the fundraiser.

The Zone also will attend with its mobile unit including a Jacob’s Ladder for children to tackle.

VanDeraa said the goal is to assemble 100 packs for Montana youngsters saying goodbye to a parent being deployed this fall.

Hero Packs consist of backpacks filled with useful items such as postage stamps for letters and gifts to make the children feel valued for the sacrifice of their separation from a parent.

She invited people attending to bring in books of Forever postage stamps to trade for a thank-you gift or tickets for vendors’ drawings. Even in this day of Skype and Facebook, VanDeraa said soldiers still enjoy receiving letters to read over and over or to hang on their walls.

“The Hero Packs will be handed out during a private Yellow Ribbon ceremony,” VanDeraa said. “They are for kids all in the state of Montana and will include all the kids in the valley who have a parent in that deployment.”

She said “suddenly military” is the term used to describe children of National Guard and Reserve soldiers. Before deployment, the family functions like any other except for the mother or father leaving one weekend a month and two weeks in the summer.

Since these families live all over Montana, they don’t have the same support as regular military families who live on or near a military base. Children experience many impacts, such as a parent gone during their important events, having more household responsibilities or going to day care or to stay with relatives more often.

Families may also face reduced financial resources, which brings other strains on those remaining at home.

“These ‘suddenly military’ kids need and want the support of their communities,” VanDeraa said.

Adopt A Troop, an organization that ships packages to troops in combat zones, stepped up to offer its support when asked by Operation Military Kids to take on the Hero Packs challenge. The group contacted merchants who have contributed gift baskets and certificates.

Some donations in hand include gift certificates for meals and two for pies from Perkins as well as others from Norm’s News, Sizzler and Army Navy Surplus. Local vendors will sell their wares on site with a percent of profits benefiting the event.

Along with the fun and games, VanDeraa called the Friday and Saturday festivities a chance for Adopt A Soldier to raise community awareness.

“The goal is to teach kids (and their parents) what it means to be ‘suddenly military,’” she said. “An opportunity will be given to write a card to a military kid and their deploying parent.”

The letters go into the Hero Packs to boost morale during deployment. People interested in learning more about the packs may go to www.operationmilitarykids.org.

As of Monday, spaces remained available for other vendors interested in participating. VanDeraa also needs a kiddie pool, bounce-house balls, a putting green, golf club and golf ball for some of the games.

She may be contacted at www.adoptatroop@bresnan.net.

Reporter Candace Chase may be reached at 758-4436 or by email at cchase@dailyinterlake.com.

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