CPS. Caitlin Wilkins McCoy Public Affairs Task Force
Students at Ellsworth High School in Ellsworth, Wis., And their social studies teacher, U.S. Army Reserve Lt. Col. Ryan Casper of the 7212th Medical Support Unit, Rochester, Minnesota, donated 1 056 backpacks filled with school supplies for Afghan evacuees now residing at Fort McCoy on December 13.
Casper and his students organized the Ellsworth Hearts and Minds fundraiser after learning that Afghan evacuees would be coming to Fort McCoy, just two hours from Ellsworth, as part of Operation Allies Welcome.
“When the war in Afghanistan ended and the evacuees were heading in that direction, I didn’t know when or how many would be at Fort McCoy, but it was only a two-hour drive away,” said Casper. “I got to go to Fort McCoy, tour the base and see for myself what is going on at the base. I realized there was a real need.
Students raised over $ 13,000 between physical donations and their fundraising on GoFundMe. After the transaction fees, students were able to purchase $ 11,593 in school supplies, including 1,056 backpacks, each containing a pencil sharpener, construction paper, a small personal dry-erase board, and markers, pencils, notebooks, pens and pencils.
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“We were like, ‘Okay, we’re going to do this fundraiser and hope it gets some support.’ Fortunately, we only had support and it was great, ”said Brianna Maurer, a student at Ellsworth High School. “People are paying attention and it was a very good experience. It shows how willing people are to help when they know it’s going to a good cause like this, and how they actually want to be involved in these things.
Donations started pouring in after the GoFundMe link was posted in several news stories, attracting donations from across the country.
“The donations we received from across the country were only from media attention, as we had two different sources of information that put our GoFundMe in their article,” said Kyle Luchsinger, a student at the school. Ellsworth secondary. “Which was phenomenal because with the link we probably got $ 3,000 to $ 4,000 which was amazing. These are people from all over the country, not even from Wisconsin.”
While this type of fundraising was a first for some students, fundraising for school supplies is not a new mission for Casper. Throughout his deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan, he has helped raise funds for local schools as a way to give back.
“This goes back to 2004 – this school helped collect school supplies while I was in Iraq,” Casper explained. “We were able to collect enough supplies for around 2,000 students in four different schools. The school district helped me do the same in 2008 and 2009 when I was in Afghanistan.
Casper believes that fundraising is not only making positive change for Afghan evacuees here, but also for students, as they see the impact they can create with just a few social media pages.
“My hope is that they hold back if they have a passion for something that they can affect a positive change,” Casper said. “They can do it in a very impactful way. They have access to the world primarily through the Internet and their ideas. So, at the end of the day, the message should be to do good and help others. They see it for themselves now, the impact, the amount. We’re going to bring supplies for over 1,000 Afghan guests, and these guys are from a town of less than 4,000. They come from a small town in Wisconsin, a village, and they can tell the difference.
For the students, the fundraising left a lasting impression on their worldview as they begin to think about their future careers after leaving Ellsworth High School.
“I think for me personally, it really cemented the fact that whatever career I want to go into, I want to be able to benefit people with the skills I’ve learned,” student Ann Lundstrom explained. . “It made me want to continue fundraising because I feel like it was a really cool experience. “
In photos: Fort McCoy and Volk Field over the years