AUSTINTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – A local teenager is trying to repay our troops, saying it would be his way of giving back to the United States servicemen and women who will spend the holidays protecting our country overseas.
It started as an English class project for Austintown Fitch High School senior Robbie Berarducci, and turned into filling gift boxes with items like blankets, books and toothbrushes.
“This took a very special place in my heart because, like I said before, I came from a military family. So I figured because they do everything for us, we should give back a little bit,” he said.
But, Berarducci’s family and friends knew taking this from concept to reality wouldn’t be easy.
“I was worried about the logistics of it, in terms of the money that it would cost to ship them, on how we would get the supplies,” said teacher Cindy McCutcheon.
So, Berarducci set out to solicit donations from family members, businesses in the area and local veterans groups.
“Actually, we were able to get the shipping costs covered through the USO (United Service Organizations),” Berarducci said.
Within about six weeks, Berarducci had collected enough donations and supplies for 25 boxes, all while working two part-time jobs and keeping up with his studies.
He kept everything in his grandparents’ dining room until just this week.
“I couldn’t believe it. Every day he would come to class and say, ‘Guess what?’ and he would tell me something new. He just blew me away every step of the way,” McCutcheon said.
Volunteers with the USO in the Valley will now get the packages ready for shipping to service members who have ties to the area.
“We mail them out to our soldiers that are on our APO (Army Post Office), FPO (Fleet Post Office) mailing lists. They’re going out to Afghanistan, Bahrain, Kuwait,” said the USO’s Becky Andres.
The packages should go out within a week or so and will arrive in time for the holidays.