U.S. Marine Capt. Christopher Southard tells Ocean City Intermediate School students how much their Treats for Troops care packages mean to military personnel serving overseas.Boxes filled with Tastykakes, toiletries, letters and a large variety of other treats from home from are starting to arrive this week at remote military posts in Afghanistan and other parts of the world.About 240 of the 40-pound care packages were mailed on Dec. 3 to U.S. military personnel serving overseas. The shipments were largely the result of the generosity of Ocean City Intermediate School students and their families.“OCIS students are clearly over-achievers, contributing over 34 large boxes filled to the top with over 4,000 items in all,” said Chris Oliva, a local Keller Williams Realtor who helped organize the collection drive for Philadelphia Treats for Troops. “They rocked.”Oliva and Board of Education member Cecelia Gallelli-Keyes approached OCIS Principal Geoffrey Haines with the idea, and Haines suggested that his staff is a competitive bunch. Why not make it a contest?They did and the OCIS students delivered twice as much material as expected.The winning homerooms were as follows:8th Grade: Ms. Sonja Parker7th Grade: Mr. Matthew Lane6th Grade: Ms. Amber Wira5th Grade: Mr. Christopher Nunan4th Grade: Ms. Regina JulianoHonorable Mention: Mr. Nick Verducci and Ms. Cory TerryPhiladelphia Treats for Troops honored the students on Wednesday with a pizza party, and a former OCIS student, Marine Capt. Christopher Southard, was on hand to give a first-hand account of what the care packages mean to military men and women in the field.Southard (who graduated from the Intermediate School in 1994) told the story of a particular patrol in Afghanistan that involved carrying 100 pounds of gear in weather that reached 120 degrees. He said his platoons returned to base to find Treats for Troops packages filled with Girl Scout cookies, beef jerky, things to clean up with, local papers and letters.“It really made our day, and it made us feel appreciated,” Southard said.The Philadelphia Treats for Troops organization was founded by Freddie Klevan in 2006. Klevan is a resident of Merion Station, Pa., who spends his summers in Ocean City at a home at 28th Street and Asbury Avenue.Klevan said his organization has delivered more than 3,700 care packages since that day in 2006 when he first asked a long-time friend, General John Gronski, what he could do to help the troops.Oliva presented the idea of helping the Treats For Troops organization to the Keller Williams Associate Leadership Council and Culture Committee. They agreed, but initial drop off centers in Ocean City, North Wildwood and Wildwood Crest weren’t very successful.“We wanted to make a much larger impact, so we looked to get the schools involved,” Oliva said. “He wasn’t kidding when he said he had competitive teachers.”The contest point system included: 3 points per item for food, toiletries, books, etc.; 2 points for writing a “Dear Soldier Letter”; and 1 point for monetary donations. The contest ran for about two weeks ending just before Thanksgiving.The pizza party included food donated by Dave Cates of Piccini Restaurant in Ocean City.
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