America Supports You: Teen Raises Money to Help Servicemembers
By Ashleigh Covington
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Jun. 20, 2006 While many high school students have trouble balancing schoolwork with sports and other activities, 17-year-old Brittany Bohannon does this and still sets aside time to give back to deployed servicemembers.
Brittany Bohannon, (pictured center) poses with her parents Paul and Audrey Bohannon. Bohannon has raised over $8,000 for Operation Air Conditioner and continues efforts to support troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. Courtesy photo.
(Click photo for screen-resolution image)
Over the past two years, Bohannon, a junior from North Eastham, Mass., has raised more than $8,000 for Operation Air Conditioner.
Operation AC, founded by Frankie Mayo, is a nonprofit organization that provides troops in Iraq and Afghanistan with useful supplies and equipment. The group originally sent air conditioners to troops; however, the effort now focuses on other necessities. Mayo's group is a member of the Defense Department's America Supports You program, which showcases Americans' efforts to support servicemembers and their families.
"It just seemed like a very worthy organization to be raising money for, and it fit in with what we wanted to help the country with," Bohannon said.
Her efforts began by collecting bottles and cans at her church. From there, her efforts quickly grew.
Bohannon's first big fundraiser brought Dan Clark, a former Marine and current Massachusetts state trooper to the stage for a concert at her high school. The concert by Clark, known at "The Singing Trooper," raised more than $5,000.
"That set us on our way," Bohannon said.
The teenager continued to find other ways to raise money in her Cape Cod town. With the help of a member of her church, she began selling daffodils to people in the community.
"A woman from church donated her yard for us to use," she said. "She has thousands of daffodils, and we've made over $1,000 just on selling (them)."
Bohannon not only has raised funds for servicemembers, but she also has adopted them through Operation AC. Having adopted 60 troops for the community, she maintains contact with four members on her own. Though at times it was hard to keep in touch with troops, Bohannon said, she's always found a way to do it.
She said she didn't have an e-mail address for one adopted servicemember. "So I got a Valentine and Christmas card from him, and we've just sent packages and letters back and forth," She said.
On other occasions, Bohannon said she has found it easier to stay in touch with her adopted troops. "I've been lucky to just e-mail them and they're very good at responding, telling me how it feels to be over there, how they feel about how people talk about them back home, and what they need to be a little more comfortable," she said.
While she occupied a lot of her free time with Operation AC efforts, Bohannon attributed her fundraising success to her parents and her boyfriend.
"My biggest thanks go out to my parents, who I never could have done this without. They have been very understanding with driving me around and helping me with everything," she said. "They and my boyfriend have been my biggest fans in this whole thing and have allowed me to get where I am today."
Along with their help and the support of her community and church, Bohannon continues raising money to give troops items they need, and she plans to coordinate other events throughout the year.
"Right now we know we're doing another Dan Clark concert on Nov. 11, Veterans Day, which we're very excited about," she said. "The bottles and cans have been an ongoing process. My cousins have been helping me return those when I don't have the time, and I'm sure we'll do daffodils again in the spring."
Bohannon said she realizes supporting the troops is important, especially when she considers her own family and friends.
"If I was there, I would want to be supported, and if my brothers were there, I would want to support them and want others to support them," she said.
Bohannon said she hopes that more people will donate to organizations like Operation AC. She said she feels that by giving back to the troops, Americans can show their gratitude to their servicemembers.
"The way I look at it is they're not necessarily over there fighting for themselves, they're over there fighting for our country," she said. "They're helping others gain their freedom and they're putting their lives in harm's way, and I respect them for making that decision to do such a hard job. I greatly respect what they're doing for our country."