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Cicero fifth-grader collects teddy bears for the troops

Ava Leahey, 10, of Cicero, collected teddy bears for troops in Afghanistan to help them through the holiday season and as thanks for their service to the country.

Ava Leahey, 10, of Cicero, collected teddy bears for troops in Afghanistan to help them through the holiday season and as thanks for their service to the country. Photo by Sarah Hall.

— This Christmas, Ava Leahey wants every family to be together like hers will be.

But, given the fact that the U.S. still has numerous troops stationed overseas, she knows that’s not a possibility for many.

So instead, she thought she’d provide those troops with a little comfort to remind them of home this holiday season.

The Cicero 10-year-old collected teddy bears, as well as other donations, to send to soldiers in Afghanistan. She sent several boxes of stuffed animals, as well as hygiene items, phone cards and other donations, to several different units on Monday, Dec. 17.

“I just thought since you can hug them and snuggle them at night, it would be a nice idea,” Ava said. “I know there are lots of families that don’t have troops home, so I decided to thank the troops.”

Ava, who has no family members or loved ones in the armed services, came up with the idea on her own, according to her parents, Chris and Heather Leahey, who also have two sons, 7-year-old Ian and 4-year-old Ryan.

“One morning, I came down and they had their Christmas lists out on the counter,” Heather said, “and she’d crossed off her list and written, ‘Bring home the troops.’ Then she wrote, ’20 teddy bears for the troops, because everybody should have someone special with them at Christmas,’ or something like that. So I talked to her about it. I said, ‘Ava, I saw your letter to Santa. That’s really sweet.’ And she said, ‘Well, it’s not going to happen.’ And I said, ‘I’m sure we can get 20 teddy bears to the troops,’ and she said, ‘No, bringing the troops home.’ And I said, ‘No, that’s [probably not] something that’s going to happen.’ But I was really impressed with her selflessness, and I thought maybe we could try to make this happen.”

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