Bailey Lewis enjoyed a unique birthday celebration Wednesday in Evans.
CSRA Home Connections members celebrated the Hephzibah Middle School sixth-grader’s 12th birthday and his donation to help deployed military personnel at the local business marketing group’s networking breakfast and spring success seminar at Be My Guest.
Bailey heard about the group’s Operation Hand-Warmer on the radio. Instead of buying the video game he was saving for, Bailey opted to donate more than $100 he’d earned cleaning beagle cages to the cause.
“When we receive items from the home front, as we call it when we’re ‘down range,’ it brings a little bit of America to those austere locations,” Lt. Col. Hollis Bush, director of Emergency Services at Fort Gordon, said at the meeting. “When we receive items from volunteers and young men like Bailey, it means a lot. We truly appreciate what you’ve done.”
The drive, spearheaded by organization volunteer Burt Sappenfield and CEO Larry Miller during the Christmas season, was aimed to collect hand-warmers for front-line troops during the bitter winter in Afghanistan.
The hand-warmer drive was designed to supplement standard military issue clothing and supplies, especially for snipers who need manual dexterity in combat.
For Bailey’s donation, the group sang Happy Birthday to the “great young American patriot.” He also was surprised with a CD signed by his favorite band Rascal Flatts, a $100 GameStop gift card and a new fishing reel, along with a plaque from the 3rd Battalion of the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (Airborne) from Fort Stewart, Ga. Bailey liked the plaque best “because the military really inspires me.”
Through Operation Hand-Warmer, the group collected 12,106 hand-warmers, 1,784 Slim Jim packs, 845 beef jerky packs, 10 bags of candy and more than $1,800 in cash for shipping.
Teary-eyed, Miller accepted a flag that was flown over a military base in Afghanistan’s Kabul province in February and was sent by the 160th regiment.
As he presented the framed flag, Bush said, ‘‘It is just a small token of our appreciation ... Thank you for your support of Operation Hand-Warmer and it truly means a lot to us.”