Creating Smiles for Military Families
Click here to learn more about Operation Military Smiles & the Dec. 16th toy giveaway at the Brockton VA
By Lindsay Corcoran/Daily News staff – The MetroWest Daily News/Photo Shane Gerardi
FRAMINGHAM – Rosemary Weddleton’s grandson will get exactly what he asked for this Christmas, the board game Shoots and Ladders, thanks to Operation Military Smiles, which hopes to provide 10,000 toys to children in Massachusetts military families in need this holiday season.
“This is so great,” said Weddleton, of Framingham, whose husband served in the Air Force during Vietnam. “These kids are my whole life right now … and they’ll be smiling on Christmas morning.” Weddleton was one of more than 200 parents and grandparents in military families who were able to go “shopping” for gifts at Sunday’s Operation Military Smiles toy giveaway.
Operation Military Smiles, created by the families of local fallen service members, allows families to pick from a variety of donated gifts including toys for all ages, clothes and gift cards. Steve Milley, whose son, Lt. Scott Milley of Sudbury, died two years ago on Nov. 30 in Afghanistan, said he was honored to support this program in his son’s memory. “My son certainly would have loved this,” Milley said. “He used to like to help people where they needed it, not just mail in a check. This is an instant need that gets met.”
Milley is one of six military parents who founded this program last year in honor of their sons who died in service. “Any event we do is bittersweet,” Milley said. “Six young men paid with their blood.” Milley said he was happy to see the event expand to three different locations this year after one successful event in Fall River last year. He said he expects this event to continue in the Framingham area for years to come.
“It is very sweet of them to do this for the little kids who, without this, wouldn’t have anything on Christmas morning,” said Amy Dion of Ashland who was shopping with her mother, Sandra Goldman, for four grandchildren at Sunday’s event. “It means so much to them to have something, to know Santa didn’t forget them.”
Maj. Sharon McLaughlin, a member of the National Guard and volunteer for the Massachusetts Troop Welfare Council, was shopping on behalf of three families with immediate need on Sunday. “There are a lot of military families that are struggling,” McLaughlin said. “These three families are struggling with post-deployment issues, including PTSD, unemployment and injury.” McLaughlin said this is just one way the council was helping these three families, but she was happy to work with the program to be able to get the gifts. “To have a Christmas, that’s what this event is allowing,” McLaughlin said.
Donations are still being accepted and additional volunteers are welcome. For more information, visit www.militaryfriends.org.