|Soccer Balls To Iraq|
Many groups send toys to cheer children in war zones, but a recent collection was sent for a more serious reason. It seems insurgents have been giving kids toy guns so U.S. soldiers might mistake them for real. These donations are meant to do more than spread good will; as Kim Riemland reports, they could literally save lives.
The plains of rural Iowa may be a long way from Iraq, but the heartbreak of war found its way to Janet Wakehouse via e-mail.
Janet Wakehouse: “It just brought tears to me eyes.”
The report from her son-in-law Tylor – a Marine serving in Fallujah – still gives her chills today.
Janet Wakehouse/Member, Turin United Methodist Church: (reading) “Intelligence has informed us that Al Qaeda is handing out realistic toy weapons to the children of Fallujah in hopes that a U.S. service member might mistakenly shoot an Iraqi child.”
She and other members of her United Methodist church collected toys – teddy bears and Barbie dolls, crayons and notebooks – to send to soldiers so they could trade new toys for the toy guns: a way a small church could make a big difference.
The Rev. Arley Ellingson/Pastor, Turin United Methodist: “It was certainly something that is going to meet the needs of a lot of children over there, and save a lot of children over there.”
Janet Wakehouse/Member, Turin United Methodist Church: “We had no idea how many boxes we would actually have. And it ended up being twenty-eight.”
Weeks later, the same e-mail account that brought such sad news of Iraqi children being used as bait, delivered pictures of children who’ve remembered how to smile.
Janet Wakehouse/Member, Turin United Methodist Church: “We did it to make the children happy, to help them to forget some of the terrible things that happened to them in their lives.”
When word of this project spread, one man donated 1,500 soccer balls. Cash donations for more shipments flowed in. And so did more photos of how something as simple as a soccer ball could save lives.
The Rev. Arley Ellingson/Pastor, Turin United Methodist Church: “The toys are keeping them safer, I believe. Keeping them out of harm’s way in a very positive fashion. Something within you, God says to you, ‘You need to do something about this.’ It makes me feel good that I can do something.”
Staff Sgt. Tylor Belshe is due to be home soon from his tour of duty.
The church is now helping a nearby Boys Club in Iowa with their toy drive for Iraqi children. To contact the church, call 712-423-1115.