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Sending Support from Home
Bonnie Leahy has been shipping care packages to overseas troops since 2005
Bonnie Leahy talks about her efforts to send socks and supplies to American troops overseas. - Justin Franz | Flathead Beacon
The Fourth of July is a time to celebrate everything American, with red, white and blue everywhere, barbecues and fireworks. It’s also a time to remember U.S. soldiers overseas, and, in coordination with people like Bonnie Leahy, to help them out.

Leahy, who runs U.S. Troop Fund in Whitefish, has been sending care packages to troops in Iraq and Afghanistan for eight years. In that time, her bake sales to raise money to cover shipping costs have become legendary in the Flathead, and hundreds of pounds of supplies have found their way to numerous military units.

“Something always draws me back, to send more supplies to the troops,” Leahy said during a recent visit to the Army Navy store in Whitefish.

Leahy’s latest project, in collaboration with iComfort Village in Whitefish, is called “1,000 Feet of Comfort,” and has the goal of sending 500 pairs of socks to soldiers patrolling deserts in the Middle East.

Many of us take socks for granted in our daily lives, Leahy said, but soldiers aren’t issued many pairs for their tours; sometimes they only have one set. And after a day on patrol in the sandy heat, that pair is usually ruined, she said, and laundry facilities are often lacking.

“I didn’t realize until I met Bonnie how important socks are (for troops),” Mimi Moser, public relations director for iComfort Village, said.

Teaming up with iComfort Village, the U.S. Troop Fund can send three pairs of socks for $10, eight pairs for $25 and 16 pairs for $50. Sock donations – tube socks, any color, all sizes – can be dropped off at the Whitefish VFW, Post 276 at 20 Baker Ave.

Each soldier receiving a pair of socks will also get a deck of iComfort Village’s comfort cards, which feature photographs and inspirational sayings.

Like many grand projects, Leahy’s penchant for sending supplies to American troops overseas began simply. In 2005, a friend from Livingston went to Iraq with the U.S. Air Force.

He asked for care packages comprised of normal, day-to-day items: deodorant, toothpastes, sunscreen and socks. Soldiers don’t have much room for personal items when they head overseas, Leahy noted, and when they run out of something, they can’t just pop over to the general store on the corner.

In 2006, she organized care packages for her friend’s entire unit.

“From there, it just has taken on a life of its own,” Leahy said.

Care packages include toiletries, candies, DVDs, shampoos, Q-Tips, razors, jerky, sunflower seeds and more.

“Anything that we’re comfortable and happy with, they’re comfortable and happy with,” Leahy said.

Socks line the wall of the Army Navy store in Whitefish. Bonnie Leahy often visits the store to buy socks for troops overseas. - Justin Franz | Flathead Beacon

Giving soldiers a piece of home became more personal for Leahy when her son, Steven, joined the U.S. Marines. He spent two tours in Iraq, remembrances of which still bring tears to Leahy’s eyes for just a moment.

“He’s doing very well,” she said of her son, who, at 25, is now pursuing an engineering degree in California.

Getting the basics to the troops isn’t cheap, however. The cost can range in the thousands for the shipments, Leahy said. U.S. Troop Fund pays for shipping by hosting fundraisers, the most famous of which is the annual bake sale held at Army Navy.

Each year since 2007, Leahy’s group of volunteers sells baked goods from people all over the valley; this year, the women of Whitefish’s VFW are planning on baking up a storm to help.

Moser said Leahy’s efforts are well known throughout the valley.

“I have girlfriends who have never met Bonnie, and when they do, they say, ‘Bonnie? I bake for her!’” Moser said.

There wasn’t going to be a bake sale this year, Leahy said, but it only took one person to ask for help to get her back in the game. It will take place on Aug. 10, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Army Navy store.

U.S. Troop Fund has also raffled off quilts to raise money for the care packages.

The constant need to send supplies has shown Leahy that troops will always need reminders of home when they’re gone, but the fact that she’s been able to keep sending supplies for eight years shows that the community responds to such needs.

“I am amazed at the amount of people that just want to be involved in this way or another,” Leahy said. “It is really exciting, and when we hear from the troops, it’s just heartwarming.”

The socks for 1,000 Feet of Comfort ship in July. To make a donation, visit www.icomfortvillage.com/1000-feet-of-comfort-socks-for-us-soldiers. For more information on the U.S. Troop Fund, visit www.ustroopfund.com.
On 08-13-13, gerrie/jim commented....
Thank you for the great article on Bonnie Leahy and all she has done for the troops for years past and still continues today. Bonnie is our daughter and we are very proud of what she has done in supporting our troops.  Again thank you for printing the…
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