Students help bring Christmas to Afghanistan

It all started with golf balls.

Col. Tim Waters of Saratoga Springs is a member of the Army Reserves who is stationed at Khyber Border Coordination Center in Torkham, Afghanistan. His daughter, Lillian Waters, worked with her mother to send him a bunch of golf balls because him and his friends liked to hit them into the minefields as a form of stress relief.

When Lillian, a senior at Saratoga Springs High School, wrote about this effort as a requirement for her Participation in Government (PIG) Community Service class, her teacher Maureen O'Toole reached out to her. The golf ball effort snowballed into a volunteer project that ended up sending 300 holiday care packages to Colonel Waters and his unit, who have been in Afghanistan since August.

I asked her [Lillian] if she needed any more help with the golf balls and she said 'no' but that she was trying to send some care packages over there in time for the holidays. The class has to conduct a community service project as a group, so we discussed organizing something to help with that and the students really seemed to respond, said O'Toole.

The class was working on a tight deadline to have the packages arrive by Christmas. They got the word out right after Thanksgiving break by posting signs and making brochures detailing the types of donations they needed. They set up collection boxes around the school and at local businesses and ended up with far more than they expected.

"There were so many donations and it was just exciting to see the boxes overflowing and the amount of stuff people donated. It made us feel good for doing it," said Aleta Doty, a classmate. "We originally planned for 265 packages because that's how many soldiers are stationed there, but when we sorted through everything, we had enough supplies to send out 300 boxes."

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