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PRESS CONTACT INFO

ROBIN ERICKSON
Director of Communications

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(401) 831-7700 x101
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Thursday, February 7, 2002
Red Cross Coordinating Transport of 50 Valentine's Day Gift Boxes, Made By Local Children, To Local Air National Guard Soldiers in Southwest Asia

Sally Huff, the Child Program Coordinator at the Armed Services YMCA in Newport was flipping through the television channels one day when she spotted a story about kids making holiday gift boxes and sending them to soldiers overseas.

"It was such a great idea I thought, 'We have to do it with our kids'" Huff said, referring to roughly 35 children, ages 12 months to 10 years old, that she works with at the Armed Services YMCA, located next to the Naval Base in Newport. "As an Armed Services YMCA,  99% of the kids who participate in our programs have parents in the military."

What started out as a small Valentine's Day project has grown to 50 shoe boxes, hand decorated and filled with goodies, for Rhode Island military personnel deployed overseas. Huff contacted the American Red Cross of Rhode Island, who coordinated the transport of the gifts to local Rhode Island soldiers. The American Red Cross Armed Forces Emergency Service provides a critical communication link between local families and soldiers serving overseas.

On Friday, February 8, 2002, at 10:30am at the Armed Services YMCA, 1297 Bushnell Street, Newport, children will present the gift boxes to Tech Sergeant Tina Scully and Lt. Col. Marcus Jannitto of the Rhode Island Air National Guard, who will transport the boxes to Rhode Islanders serving in Southwest Asia.

Jannitto says that while there are less than 50 Rhode Island soldiers deployed overseas, he will have the boxes delivered to the group and they can distribute the extra boxes to other troops stationed in the area.

The 50 boxes, 40 for men and 10 for women, are filled with donated items that range from shaving cream to wrestling magazines. Sonya McGough, Executive Director of the YMCA, says she hopes to spread the program to her colleagues at the 17 other Armed Services YMCAs across the country.

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