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DoD Leaders Recognize Arizona Teen for Supporting Troops

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Dec. 3, 2004 – Fourteen-year-old Alison Goulder got personal thanks at the Pentagon today from Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz and Air Force Gen. Richard B. Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, for supporting U.S. troops in Iraq through a grassroots-level campaign collecting Beanie Baby dolls.

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Alison Goulder, left, shows some of the Beanie Babies she has collected for troops in Iraq and Afghanistan to Air Force Gen. Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Standing behind her during her Pentagon visit are, from left, her mother, Suzanne Goulder, sister Jenna, brother Greg, and father, Jeff Goulder. Photo by Mamie Mae Burke

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The Pentagon leaders praised the Scottsdale, Ariz., eighth-grader for commitment and perseverance that led to the collection of 28,000 of the stuffed critters for deployed troops to hand out to Iraqi and Afghan children.

Goulder said she read in a magazine about Operation Grateful, an effort by law firm Greenberg Traurig to send care packages to troops in Iraq, Afghanistan and Germany. The magazine quoted Joe Reeder, former undersecretary of the Army and now a partner with Greenberg Traurig, as saying Beanie Babies were the top item on the troops' wish list.

Goulder, who started collecting the stuffed critters when she was 7 years old, saw the article as a call to action. "I thought it was great, something that I could do to show support for the troops," she said.

She and her sister Jenna, 11, and brother Greg, 10, scoured through their closets and found about 80 Beanie Babies.

But the effort didn't stop there. Goulder challenged other family members and friends to donate their Beanie Babies to the cause. She hung fliers up around her school, Rancho Solano, urging her classmates to pitch in. She helped sponsor a school dance in October, with the price of admission: one Beanie Baby.

"The effort kind of snowballed," she said. "My original goal was 1,000 Beanie Babies, but we met that the first day." Soon 600 to 800 Beanie Babies being arriving at the school every day.

So far, the effort has raised 28,000 Beanie Babies, more than 15,000 of which have already been shipped to Iraq. Goulder said she's not finished. "As long as people keep bringing them in, I'll keep collecting them," she said.

Goulder's parents say they aren't surprised by their daughter's enterprise. "We've always tried to encourage contributing to the community," they said during their visit to the Pentagon today. "And she's always been very goal- oriented."

Myers thanked Goulder for her "initiative and stick-to-it-ness" and told her the contribution means "more than you will ever know" to U.S. troops in Iraq and Iraqi children.

"This is terrific. It's exactly the right thing to do," Myers said. "Thank you for persevering."

Goulder said she's received "heartfelt notes" from people who have donated their Beanie Baby collections for the cause, and said she took special pride in seeing a magazine cover that depicted a soldier giving a Beanie Baby to a smiling Iraqi child.

"They don't have a lot to hold on to," she said. "Hopefully this will make a difference, at least for a few days."

Reeder called the effort "a part of winning the hearts and minds" of the Iraqi people. "If you send 28,000 Beanie Babies, that's creating 28,000 smiles," he said.

Greenberg Traurig's 22 offices nationwide have sent more than 3,000 care packages to Iraq, Afghanistan and Germany, Reeder said. In addition to Beanie Babies, the shipments include food and snack items, cameras and cosmetics donated by the Estee Lauder Companies.

The initiative is an example of grassroots support for deployed troops being recognized in the Defense Department's "America Supports You" campaign. The program showcases America's support for the men and women of the armed forces and the myriad ways the country is expressing that support.

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Click photo for screen-resolution imageAlison Goulder, center, is recognized at the Pentagon Dec. 3 for collecting 28,000 Beanie Babies for deployed troops to pass out to Iraqi and Afghan children. Her sister Jenna, left, and brother Greg contributed to the effort. All were presented "America Supports You" dogtags during their vist as recognition for their support for deployed troops. Photo by Donna Miles  
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Click photo for screen-resolution imageAlison Goulder shows Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz a small sampling of the Beanie Babies being sent to Iraqi children. Alison, her family and her school, Rancho Solano in Scottsdale, Ariz., collected over 30,000 of these toys as part of Operation Grateful, an effort to send care packages to troops in Iraq, Afghanistan and Germany. Soldiers have asked for these toys to give to the children. Goulder and her family visited the Pentagon on Dec. 3. Photo by Helene C. Stikkel  
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