Want to take part in the ultimate Secret Santa program and be able to feel good about it all year?
The seventh year of Komets Kare Package is currently running at the next three Komets home games. Sponsored by The News-Sentinel, the Komets, Federal Express and WANE, NewsChannel 15, the program encourages fans to drop off items at home games for our service members serving overseas. We'll ship them off as part of care packages through Hoosiers Helping Heroes.
How much difference does it make?
"Our battalion would get our mail dropped off at the base, and then we had to drive or take a patrol there to pick up the mail and whatever,'' said U.S. Army First Lt. T.J. Ware who served in Afghanistan. "We would go once a week. It was only about 15 miles, but it took us about 40 minutes because the road we were going on wasn't always the best.
"Kare packages were always the highlight of the week or two weeks if we had to wait awhile to go get them. Usually people were running low on things that they wanted, and everybody would flood in to grab their mail.''
Ware is now back home, serving as an artillery officer at Joint Base Lewis McCord in Washington. How has he benefited from Komets Kare Package? That's a bit of an interesting tale.
Ware grew up in South Bend and went to Mishawaka Marian High School. His father was career Army, and his older brother and sister also served.
"I always say it was me who wanted to join the Army but they beat me to it,'' he said.
Before enlisting, he attended Miami of Ohio and shared a class with Komets goaltender Cody Reichard.
His sister-in-law Ashley Holley heard about Komets Kare Package through a WANE report and signed him up with Hoosiers Helping Heroes at hoosiershelpingheroes.org. The sister of Ware's wife, Amber, Ashley lives in Fort Wayne with her husband, Dirk, who went to Homestead.
"The experience was very efficient and easy to register him to receive the care packages,'' Ashley Holley said. "It was just something that I could know that something was going to him regularly without having to worry about it. We have three kids, and we're busy and we wanted something easy to let him know that there are people thinking about him.
"It took all of the stress out of it for me worrying about what do you send and how often and how do you do it. It's less about what you send and more that you send something. I think there are more bad days than good over there, and I know they look forward to getting the mail. There are a lot of people who don't (have) someone who cares enough to register them for something like that.''
That's where Komets Kare Package and Hoosiers Helping Heroes come in. Hoosiers Helping Heroes sends care packages to more than 50 Indiana service members each month, and the results of Komets Kare Package will be the majority of items shipped over the next three months.
"If anybody is at a smaller or more remote place you are going to be craving those necessities,'' Ware said. "Where we were, we had jerky, but we only got it once a month, so I always had beef jerky sent to me as well. Toward the end we were closing down our little place, so we stopped getting hot food. I was getting cans of soup or anything that could be microwaved. That way I didn't have to eat Army food every day.''
Another important factor is that not every soldier is receiving regular mail or care packages. Ware said he used to receive two or sometimes three care packages a month so he'd share with other soldiers.
Depending on the season, Hoosiers Helping Heroes sometimes sends out two care packages per month. There are also themed packages like for Christmas, Thanksgiving, Valentine's Day and Halloween with lots of candy.
The seventh year of Komets Kare Package will be held today, Sunday and Tuesday.
Here's a list of needed items from the folks at Hoosiers Helping Heroes who process our donations and send them to the troops: jerky, breath mints, gum, men's and women's deodorant, snack bars, small bags of nuts, feminine hygiene items, nail clippers, potato chips, plastic jars of peanut butter, hard candy, candy bars, packs of cookies, baby wipes, black socks, razors, shampoo, flip-flops of all sizes, body wash, chess and checker sets, protein bars, trail mix, chicken or tuna salad snack packs, sunflower seeds, puzzle books, travel-insulated coffee mugs, drink and sports drink sleeves. Items can be dropped off at the games or at the Federal Express Shipping Center, 3620 Independence Drive, during business hours.