Soldiers will receive gifts from Kansas City

As many shoppers searched for holiday gifts Saturday, a group of Kansas Citians came together to make sure soldiers in Afghanistan receive a package to open during the holiday season.

“This is our way of saying thanks. It’s a humanitarian effort,” said Andy Ronald, who coordinated the effort with his wife, Cheryl.

The Kansas City couple started the program — named the Wallace R. Bostwick Memorial Fund — three years ago while a friend was working with the Red Cross in Afghanistan. The couple agreed to collect items that the Red Cross workers could then distribute in Afghanistan to wounded soldiers passing through a field hospital and to others located in remote outposts throughout the country.

They recruited friends, co-workers, local businesses and most recently area schoolchildren, who decorated the boxes and penned notes to the soldiers.

“The first year we raised enough for 100 boxes. The second year we raised enough for 200 boxes and this year we have 400 boxes,” Ronald said.

The packages were decorated by students from Paseo Academy, Pembroke Hill, Leawood Elementary and Cristo Rey, said Debbie Hagen, a volunteer. Many of the students penned a note of support on the boxes as well.

Inside soldiers will find items like Starbucks instant coffee, gummy bears, vitamins, calling cards and heavy-duty socks. But volunteers said Saturday that they think soldiers will most appreciate the students’ notes and artwork.

“You are always and forever in my prayers,” read one note.

Ronald imagines that note arriving in the hands of a wounded soldier forced to leave their unit and belongings behind. It’s a feeling of comfort that he believes can’t be understated.

“It’s just somebody saying, hey, we care about you,” he said.