America Supports You: Texas Teen Focuses on Supporting Troops
By Carmen L. Gleason
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, March 2, 2007 As a senior in high school, Tania Foster could easily focus all her energy in preparing for her collegiate pursuits in biochemistry this autumn.
However, the 18-year-old is instead putting her spare time into helping others -- primarily the men and women of the armed forces -- through her nonprofit organization “Dallas is Love.”
During a family vacation to South Korea in 2004, she interacted for the first time with U.S. troops stationed there. “I had no idea of the strain that they were under, as the majority of them are in Korea without family members,” Tania said.
When she returned to the states, she began spreading the word to friends and businesses in the Dallas area that there are troops on the Korean Peninsula who need to be shown the support of the American public.
“I just knew that something had to be done to let these men and women know how much we, the people of America, appreciate them for all their efforts and sacrifices they make every day,” Tania said.
In an effort to heighten the visibility of her organization and therefore help more troops, she sought assistance from military officials at the Pentagon. In November 2006, Dallas is Love became a member of America Supports You, the Defense Department program designed to connect grassroots home front groups with members of the military at home and overseas.
“The help that we received from America Supports You and public affairs offices at the Pentagon and in Korea was wonderful,” her mother, Linda, said. “These offices have done so much to guide her in the right direction and have helped us in so many ways.”
Before joining the DoD team, Tania was primarily getting requests for assistance from troops in Korea; now requests are coming in from around the globe, Linda said.
Through her Web site, www.dallasislove.org, Tania has raised more than $8,000 for Army and Air Force Exchange Service gift cards for soldiers. Although her organization has primarily focused on Army troops in Korea, she began branching out in February to meet the needs of members of other services stationed in other parts of the world.
The increase in troop coverage has resulted in a revamping of her Web site.
Korean War veteran Keith Fannon serves as the organization’s Web master. The 77-year-old said he and his fellow members of the Sam Johnson Chapter 270 of the Korean War Veterans Association first encouraged Tania to go forward with her idea of supporting troops on the peninsula. Fannon volunteered to create and monitor the site.
“Anything I can do for those guys over there, I’m willing to do it,” Fannon said. “A lot of these guys don’t hear from their families. It means so much to get something from home; it’s uplifting.”
Former Dallas Cowboys star Tony Hill also has been an active sponsor of Tania’s efforts to support U.S. troops. He has autographed more than $1,600 worth of Cowboys merchandise to send to servicemembers stationed overseas. Hill also has appeared with Tania on local radio station 570 KLIS to promote Dallas is Love and encourage others in the community to get involved.
The Texas radio station sent a crew to Iraq in mid-February to do a live broadcast for their Dallas listeners. While there, the KLIS crew distributed more than $1,000 worth of gift cards to troops, in addition to personal hygiene items and compact discs gathered from local businesses by Tania’s organization.
Tania’s younger brother, Patrick Henry, 15, also is lending a helping hand. He is in charge of keeping track of the money given to the organization and personally writes each donor a thank you letter.
“It is very rewarding to reach out and give to people,” Linda said. “(My husband and I) have always emphasized the importance of giving to others even though we aren’t rich. We are just a regular, middle-class family.”
Although their family has no personal connection with the military, Tania said that Dallas is Love has given her insight into the military lifestyle and has inspired her to continue her efforts to support U.S. troops.
“As American citizens, we must realize that we have troops all around the world to protect not only our country,” Tania said, “but others as well.”