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Thursday, December 23, 2010

Timmy's Share A Cup for our troops

*cross-posted from Assoluta Tranquillita*

Via Canadian Army News:


Share a Cup asks Canadians to contribute $10 for a Tim Hortons gift card and write a letter of appreciation to Canadian Forces personnel serving in Afghanistan.

5,000 Canadians send Tim Hortons gift cards to troops in Afghanistan

December 22, 2010

Kathryn Stocks
Toronto Star

More than 5,000 Canadians will be having coffee with a stranger thousands of kilometres away in Afghanistan over the holidays.

They’ve all contributed $10 to Share a Cup With a Brave Canuck, an innovative program started three years ago by Ric Rangel-Bron, a Toronto Emergency Medical Services commander. It has since spread to paramedic groups across the country.

Share a Cup asks Canadians to contribute $10 for a Tim Hortons gift card and write a letter of appreciation to Canadian Forces personnel serving in Afghanistan.

Over the past two years 23,000 cards and messages have been sent. This holiday season’s 5,000 contributions are now on their way to Kandahar following a handover ceremony to the Canadian Forces at EMS headquarters last week.

It's a year-round program but more cards come in at this time of the year. “People associate Christmas with being away and being alone,” Rangel-Bron says. “At this time of year people want to do more.”

They’re a varied group. For Grade 7 and 8 students at St. Jane Frances Catholic Elementary School in Toronto, the idea of participating in Share a Cup grew out of their Remembrance Day ceremonies. “The kids kept focusing on the soldiers who had passed away in WWI and WWII,” says teacher Linda Pletzer. “I said, ‘Aren't there soldiers around right now that we need to think about?’” So students wrote letters and baked cookies.

Madeline Traub, a Grade 4 student in St. Catharines, raised enough money for 230 gift cards this year. “I asked my school and instead of collecting Halloween candy, I actually collected money for Tim cards.” Her mother, Mayram, is with Niagara EMS and got Madeline interested in the program.

For Rangel-Bron and EMS staff who volunteer their time to read all the notes, it can be a moving experience.

One child sent this message: “I am 5. You are my hero. Thank you.”

Then there was the 11-year-old boy who asked,

“Do you use AK47s or RPGs?”

An adult participant wrote this heartfelt note of appreciation: “Thank you for all you do to keep us safe and free. As you sip your coffee, close your eyes and try to feel all the warm hugs and good wishes I'm sending your way.”

Another sent laminated maple leaves from the backyard.

And, naturally, families who have lost loved ones in Afghanistan also send money for gift cards.

The cards are issued by personnel support people to troops as they come in from rotation. They can be used at the Tim Hortons at the base there. They are also an excellent way of cheering up troops. Says Rangel-Bron: “It's as much a morale booster as anything else.”

People who include their address sometimes get a message in return. One soldier thanked Rangel-Bron for the card and told him he bought Tim’s Ice Caps — iced cappuccinos — for his buddies.

“The best part was how he kept the card with the message inside his vest. And he kept that with him for his whole tour. The card is a nice gift, but a message from a Canadian saying ‘Thank you for being there, I appreciate your service,’ that's what was important.”

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(Toronto Star here)