The 10-year anniversary of 9/11 may have passed, but there is one group of young Bronxville students that will continue its commemorative efforts long into the new year, and that group is encouraging you to do the same.
Since its creation in 2008, “Hearts to Home,” started by Bronxville High School student Mike McManus, has been responsible for sending more than $100,000 in phone cards to military personnel serving overseas.
The program’s first batch, which included more than $8,000 in phone cards, was sent shortly before Valentine's Day to soldiers at Camp Bucca—named after former Tuckahoe Fire Marshal Ronald Bucca, who heroically lost his life on September 11th, 2001 while saving people from the World Trade Center. Since then, Hearts to Home has been handed down to seniors on Bronxville High School’s Youth Council, who continue to coordinate and oversea the sending of cards before each major holiday, including Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Thanksgiving and Christmas.
This year, co-presidents of the Youth Council Taylor Reynolds and Kelly Lund, both seniors at Bronxville High School, will be leading Hearts to Home’s fund-raising efforts, with plans of broadening the program and expanding its reach in the community. Reynolds and Lund were both a part of a very successful Phone-A-Thon put on by Hearts to Home last spring, which the pair say they hope to repeat this coming May in an even bigger format.
The event helped raise more than $7,000, as all Youth Council members gathered in the school cafeteria, and as Lund put it, “took out the directory for the school, gave a couple of pages to each member, took out their cell phone and started calling."
“We literally had the entire cafeteria filled,” Reynolds said. “We would all scream out how much we got. It was kind of a competition. We’ve all been touched by someone that was affected by 9/11, and this program allows you to indirectly help people that are helping you.”
Reynolds and Lund hope to expand this spring’s Phone-A-Thon to other local schools and nurseries, and are even looking into bringing the program to neighboring towns. Also in the works is a Hearts to Home website, where contributions could be made directly online. In addition, Reynolds and Lund are looking into adding a fall fund-raiser to the Youth Council’s agenda, with early plans centering on a Walk-A-Thon or Fun Run.
Lund, who first heard about Hearts to Home her sophomore year when she became fully involved with the Youth Council, says the program has been very well received by members of the Bronxville community, although she adds that getting the word out about it is still a top priority.
“I think [10th grade] was the first time I heard about Hearts to Home, and that’s one of the things we’re trying to change, because I didn’t even know about it until I was in the Youth Council,” Lund said. “We want it to be more open to the community and to people who aren’t necessarily involved with the school. We’d love more people to know about it and be involved in it. I think [the program] feels like a more personal cause, and that’s something that really struck me. Food and all that stuff is fantastic, but this gets soldiers to call their families and create that connection for them.”
Perhaps most rewarding of all, the Hearts to Home team received a very real reminder this past June of the impact its efforts are having on American lives thousands of miles away, parts of which have been posted below:
Dear Hearts to Home Team,
Thanks so much for your continued generosity, good wishes, and support for our troopers and civilians in Afghanistan. I was delighted to receive your letter of June 2, 2011 and the photo showing the smiling faces of four members of your team during your Spring Phone-A-Thon! And our troopers and civilians deployed here greatly appreciated receiving the calling card.
Please know that your hard work and good deeds are noticed and appreciated.
With all best wishes from Kabul,
David H. Petraeus
General, United States Army
(Editor's Note: Hearts to Home is currently looking to expand the number of soldiers to whom it sends phone cards. If you know someone serving overseas, know how Hearts to Home could get information on where cards could be sent, or simply would like to make a donation, contact Sandy McManus at firstname.lastname@example.org or 914.715.3659.)