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Kiski Area East gathers treats to send to troops in Afghanistan

Matthew Medsger
| Monday, Dec. 4, 2017, 1:06 a.m.
Kiski Area East Primary School fourth-graders Logan Toy (left), Jackson Mills and Jacob Pattison stand in front of the treat collection bins for deployed troops on Dec. 1, 2017. Toy's father has been in Afghanistan since September.
Matthew Medsger | Tribune-Review
Kiski Area East Primary School fourth-graders Logan Toy (left), Jackson Mills and Jacob Pattison stand in front of the treat collection bins for deployed troops on Dec. 1, 2017. Toy's father has been in Afghanistan since September.
Kiski Area East Primary School fourth-graders Logan Toy (left), Jackson Mills and Jacob Pattison pack boxes to be sent to deployed troops. Toy's father has been in Afghanistan since September. (Trib photo)
Matthew Medsger | Tribune-Review
Kiski Area East Primary School fourth-graders Logan Toy (left), Jackson Mills and Jacob Pattison pack boxes to be sent to deployed troops. Toy's father has been in Afghanistan since September. (Trib photo)

It's not unusual for students at Kiski Area East Primary School in Vandergrift to spend the days before the holidays putting together care packages for troops deployed overseas.

It is unusual, according to fourth-grade teacher Shasta Bassett, for one of her students to quietly enter the holidays with his father deployed and she none the wiser.

“I honestly had no idea until one of the teachers said his father was in the military and deploying,” she said.

So, when Bassett learned that Logan Toy, 9, was without his dad for the holidays — and not for the first time — she wanted to see what could be done to make things easier.

“He's going to be deployed for a year, and Logan started talking about it in class, saying that his dad had been gone for a couple of months,” Bassett said.

Because the school has made packages for troops before, “we just figured it would be something nice to do for him and his platoon and for him and his family as well, to let them know we are thinking of them.”

Jeffrey Toy has been deployed to Afghanistan since September, wife Gwen Toy said.

School Principal Patrick Marchand said all 490 students at the elementary school, and not just the fourth grade, pitched in to help with the packages.

“For the last couple of years we've tried to do something for the troops during the holidays,” he said. “It's nice — the kids really try to think about other people. They are pretty in tune with people that are serving overseas and people serving the country and kind of want to help out.”

Toy said he wasn't just putting packages together for his dad, but for all of “the people that are in the Army that are far, far away serving.”

Another fouth-grader, Jacob Pattison, was helping Toy seal up boxes on Friday, and said he wanted to help because that is what soldiers do for everyone.

“They've been doing a lot for us, so we decided to do something for them,” he said.

Marchand, himself a veteran of the Persian Gulf War, said seeing the students work to bring holiday cheer to deployed troops is extraordinarily heartwarming.

“It's wonderful,” he said. “Honestly, it means a lot. The teachers here are wonderful, they do tremendous work with the kids, and in their classrooms they recognize veterans. They really do a lot.”

Collection of “treats for our troops” will continue for another week, Bassett said, and the packages will be mailed overseas to Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan within the next couple of weeks.

American Legion Post 114 in Vandergrift picks up the postal tab, she said, and the packages hopefully will arrive in time for Christmas.

Matthew Medsger is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-226-4675, mmedsger@tribweb.com, or via Twitter @matthew_medsger.

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