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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.

— So Heather reached out through social media, creating an event on Facebook and inviting her friends. She encouraged them to tell their friends about it, and word quickly spread. Heather put a donation box at her place of employment, as did her husband Chris, a teacher at North Syracuse Junior High School. A box was also placed at the North Area YMCA. In just a couple of weeks — Ava’s idea didn’t strike until the middle of December — the family had collected several dozen teddy bears, as well as other assorted donations and $195 that will go towards the cost of shipping everything to Afghanistan.

“It’s been neat coming home every day and finding another box at the door,” Chris said. “We don’t even know where the boxes come from. A lot of people don’t leave names. There’s just a box of teddy bears or a check that’s been sent in the mail. It’s really neat, all the goodwill.”

And that goodwill isn’t just local.

“We’ve had people from Las Vegas send stuff, people from South Carolina have sent money for shipping, people from Maine, New York City — it extends farther than just Cicero,” Heather said.

The donated teddy bears and other goods are headed to a number of different units. The Leaheys are sending one batch to the unit in which one of Ava’s friend’s uncles serves. They also reached out through anysoldier.com, which allows people to connect to soldiers who don’t receive regular correspondence or care packages from home.

Also among the recipients are CPT Ashley Nicolas, a 2009 West Point graduate and Baldwinsville native, and her all-female unit. Nicolas, a former softball player at B’ville and at West Point, has been married for one year; her husband is a naval officer stationed in Washington state.

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