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McConnell Middle sends holiday care packages

LOGANVILLE - It's a holiday tradition at McConnell Middle School.

Members of the Junior Beta Club gathered in the cafeteria before school Friday to pack food, toiletries, socks, books and video games into boxes bound for two Special Forces units, a Navy SEAL unit and Stryker brigade.

"They've done so much for us, and we're just trying to give back to them," said eighth-grader Travis Padgett, the club's president.

Also included in the boxes were letters of appreciation from the students.

"We were wishing them a happy holiday season and thanking them (for their service) because they're not with their families during the holidays," eighth-grader Blakelee Bartik said.

"We want them to know kids back home are appreciating what they do and send their love and care," eighth-grader Katee Blair said.

About 90 club members prepared 110 boxes for the deployed troops, said science teacher Brian Howe, the club's head faculty sponsor. Operation One Voice helped provide troops' contact information.

McConnell Middle principal Paula Everett-Truppi said she's proud of the work performed by Beta Club members.

"It helps the kids to remember what the season is all about," Everett-Truppi said.

Everett-Truppi said it's a "reality of the military" for troops to be away from home during the holidays - and it's a reality with which her family is familiar. Her sons, Army Reserve Staff Sgt. Seth Damann and U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Micah Damann, are deployed and serving in Iraq and Kuwait, respectively.

"My younger son (24-year-old Micah) - this is his fourth deployment," Everett-Truppi said. "He has never been home for Christmas since his (3-year-old) daughter was born."

Micah and his 28-year-old brother will be receiving care packages from the school, Everett-Truppi said.

"I couldn't be any prouder of my kids for the decisions they've made," she said.