Locals pack goods for troops overseas

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ALBEMARLE COUNTY, Va. (NEWSPLEX) -- On Thursday night, people from around the area met at the American Legion post in Albemarle County to pack gift bags for troops.

"There's candy, gum, and a lot of other things," said Lukas Castegren-Mix, a third-grade student at St. Anne's Belfield School.

"It's nice that people from all over Charlottesville have written holiday cards for the troops, and are willing to share the holidays with people," said Jacqui Cecalupo, Co-President of the Blue Star Families of Central Virginia.

The organization sends gift boxes to troops five times a year. This year, the group has sent more than 200 boxes, with an additional 100 being sent this month. In total, the group has sent more than 5,000 care packages during their many years of service.

"No matter what we send them, we always have thank you notes about the cards. Nothing makes me happier than seeing how something as simple as a card can mean so much to these people," said Cecalupo.

Many of the volunteers said they had their own reasons for coming out on Thursday. For eight-year-old Lukas, it was quite a unique reason.

"My birthday wasn't too long ago, and instead of presents, I choose to get things for the troops," he said.

His parents were at a loss for words.

"As a mom, you get to see a child's inspiration blossom from something like that, and that's something special," said Vicky Castegren, Lukas' mother."

Lukas says his reason for forfeiting birthday presents was because he knows he would want someone to make him feel special if he lived so far away.

"I would miss my family if I were there. I wouldn't get things that often, so, I would get really excited if I got one of these boxes," he said.

Although this event was the final one of the year, the group says it will be shipping more boxes out in February 2017.

If you wish to help, the organization says one of the most helpful things to do is help identify active service members from the area so that they can receive future shipments. To find out more about their program, volunteer, or donate, click on the link in the Related Links box.

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