Va. Tech-Boston College Football Game to Benefit Iraqi Children
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Oct. 26, 2005 Spectators going to the Virginia Tech vs. Boston College football game Oct. 27 will not only see a game with Bowl Championship Series implications, but a chance to help children in Iraq.
"Operation Provide Classroom Comfort" is the brainchild of a Virginia Tech alumnus who went into Iraq with the 101st Airborne Division in March 2003. Army Maj. Mark Sherkey, an intern in the Office of the Secretary of Defense, hopes to gather enough school supplies for 4,000 Iraqi students and equipment for 10 schools.
Sherkey, a 1995 Virginia Tech graduate, was a captain and commanded Battery C, 1st Battalion, 377th Field Artillery Regiment, when he served in Operation Iraqi Freedom. His unit ended up in Mosul, Iraq.
"As part of my duties, I went into the communities and villages," Sherkey said during an interview. "I met the people and worked with them to identify projects that would help them. When I saw the schools, I knew that was it."
Many Iraqi schools were nothing more than ramshackle buildings with no supplies, books, running water, heat or air conditioning. "I bid each month for funds through the (101st) division to fix up the schools, and I generally got at least some (money)," he said.
He turned to the Middle Tennessee Virginia Tech Alumni Association for help in stocking the schools and getting paper, pens and school supplies for the students. "They were great," he said. "They shipped over more than 100 boxes of school supplies."
Sherkey said the effort to aid the schools paid off in intangible ways. The Iraqis saw a different side to the Americans, he said. They saw American soldiers helping clean and refurbish Iraqi schools and the American people digging into their pockets to help Iraqi children.
Sherkey said the effort also will help to train the next generation of Iraqis in how democracy works.
The effort grew larger once Sherkey came back to the United States. Virginia Tech's School of Education bought into the program, and then football coach Frank Beamer added his name and support.
The effort will have collection points at seven entrances at Lane Stadium/Worsham Field in Blacksburg, Va. The local Wal-Mart also has volunteered to be a drop-off point for supplies.
The group also is taking monetary donations. Sherkey said $10 will buy school supplies for an Iraqi child for a year. Everything collected will go to Virginia Tech alumni serving in Iraq to distribute to the schools, he said.
And Sherkey has still larger visions. He hopes, he said, to endow a scholarship at Virginia Tech for Iraqi students.