Making the Holidays Happier for U.S. Service Members

The Willeke family from The Bridges has adopted an annual tradition that helps bring smiles to our service men and women each holiday.

They do it through special gift packages they compile with other military academy families. But to ensure the packages’ delivery, they need your help to get them to our young heroes.

Traicey and Brian Willeke’s son Mikal attends West Point. In recent hears they have volunteered with the West Point Gulf Coast Parents Club, which has worked annually since 2015 with the 300 Boodle Brigade, a national organization of United States Military Academy parents that sends hundreds of care packages and letters to U.S. soldiers serving abroad for the holidays. “People and businesses from all over Florida donate items like toiletries, books, socks and food,” stated Traicey. “Chick-Fil-A even donates sauces every year, for a taste of home. And once a year on a Saturday morning in November, many across the U.S. come together to fill hundreds of boxes and write letters of support to send to the troops spending the holiday season outside of the U.S.”

Brian and Traicey Willeke with sons Josh and Mikal, a cadet at West Point.

The most important thing they need help with to ensure the drive’s success?

The parents need assistance with paying for the postage to ensure the holiday boxes arrive at their destinations. The postage for each large box costs $22.65, says Traicey. Each donation of that amount helps ensure a U.S. soldier will know just how much they are appreciated this holiday.

“Our family has participated the past two years and will continue to do so as we have heard personally that it makes a direct and positive impact to a soldier’s life!” she stated. “Eventually our son Mikal will be deployed after graduating from West Point in 2024 and we will continue to send those packages, albeit my heart might be packed in one special box!”

The Willekes collect donations all year, so the community can purchase or make items and either drop off or ship them to the Willeke family home at 10247 Woodford Bridge St., Tampa, FL 33626. For more information about how you can help the effort, email wppcgc@gmail.com.

Readers can also send monetary donations to help pay for a box’s postage via Venmo to @wppcgc or can mail checks made out to WPPCGC to 5307 Hunt Club Way, Sarasota, FL 34238.

Please contribute today to help bring a smile to our heroes this holiday.

By Chris Barrett, Publisher

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