Mt. Pleasant shopping spree to benefit kids of fallen soldiers
More than 200 children around the country will have a birthday to remember next month thanks to the efforts of volunteers in Westmoreland County.
A Soldier’s Child Foundation, based in Tennessee, visited Mount Pleasant Township last week and, with the help of about 60 local people, bought and wrapped birthday gifts for the children of military members who died while on active duty.
The project started Friday with a shopping spree. The volunteers combed the shelves at Walmart looking for gifts for more than 200 kids, all of whom have a birthday in November.
“I think it’s an awesome cause,” said Debbie Campbell of Greensburg. “These kids are not forgotten. It’s very fun doing this, and it makes you feel like you’re doing something important.”
On Saturday morning the group gathered at Southmoreland Middle School to wrap the gifts.
They’ll be sent to their recipients all over the country.
Foundation founder Daryl Mackin hosts one of these events in different communities every month.
“We’re coming to these kids and saying, ‘We care about you, we care about your fallen,’ ” Mackin said.
On Saturday, Mackin presented gifts including a tent, camping gear, a jacket and headphones during a birthday party for Benjamin Forshey, 13, of New Paris, Bedford County. He was a newborn when his father, Curtis, an Army sergeant serving in Iraq, succumbed to leukemia. The boy’s mother, Laura, noted her late husband loved being a soldier and was nicknamed “Captain America” by his troops.
Mackin started the charity to help a young neighbor who had lost his father in Iraq.
The organization celebrates about 4,000 birthdays a year. It also hosts camps and other events for the children it serves.
He’s been to Westmoreland County five times in the last three years. He says this region has been very generous, both in terms of financial donations to buy the gifts and volunteers to do the work.
“This area is one of the best in the country, no joke,” he said.
Many of the volunteers are affiliated with Owens and Minor health care company and Center Bethel Church of God, which have partnered with A Soldiers Child for the last few years.
Saturday’s shopping spree cost about $25,000, paid for with donations.
Amanda Gross of Scottsdale has been to several events with A Soldier’s Child.
“We’ve got to see a lot of kids get birthday presents, and we’ve heard a lot of their stories,” she said. “It just puts a smile of joy on their faces.”
Pastor Lee Kline of Center Bethel Church of God said the charity provides for children who might otherwise be overlooked.
“They lost a parent in the service of our country, and there’s a void there,” he said.
Jacob Tierney is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jacob at 724-836-6646, [email protected] or via Twitter .