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Special Delivery: Helping Soldiers Play Santa

Christmas presents
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Rhea Anna

In September 2007, on the eve of Gil's deployment to Iraq, Vickie honed the idea for FCH while she was in the shower and praying for his safety. She ran out of the bathroom with a towel wrapped around her and wrote up the organization's brochure—while dripping wet. The next day she sent her son off with flyers to distribute at his base. The idea was simple: Each deployed soldier could request one holiday gift for the woman in his life, whether his mother, wife, girlfriend, daughter, or sister.

There's space on the flyer where the soldier can scribble a love note, which is later snipped out and inserted into a card. "I thought it would be cool to do this for his squad of 12 guys," Vickie says. "It made me feel closer to my son when he was deployed. He was doing his work in Iraq, and I was doing my patriotic duty too."

Word spread around Gil's base in Iraq—and in Rochester. Vickie, who spent 20 years teaching ballet and volunteering for various charities, realized she could send more gifts if she could secure donations. In just two and a half months Vickie drummed up enough money from family, friends, and local businesses to send out 150 packages—all with a "12 Days of Christmas" theme. Another Rochester-area military mom, Lisa Kaltenbach Miller, 53, heard about the organization and joined Vickie.

The women had met at the local airport the year before while they were waiting for their sons to return home. The two soon became gift-wrapping, fundraising machines. The following year they sent out 575 Christmas presents and expanded to Valentine's Day and Mother's Day. This year Vickie and Lisa hope to ship out 1,000 Christmas gifts.