A 12-year-old St. Martin girl wants to make the holiday season a little brighter for troops serving in Iraq. This week Ashley Calcote is busy putting together care packages for an Alaska based Army platoon. Those soldiers will be spending their Christmas in the Middle East.
Snacks. Toiletries. Games. The sixth grader has a lot to pack in these boxes headed to troops spending the holidays in Iraq.
"They deserve as much as they can get for having the courage to go out there and defend our country. I just want to give as much because they deserve it," she said. "I want to make them smile and make them remember the times they were with their family and know that we all hope that they will come back to their families."
With her friends on hand to help fill care packages, Ashley says her heart was filled with concern for the men and women about to receive them. At 4-years-old, she found out what it's like not to be able to be home for Christmas.
"When I was around that age I had major kidney surgery and I was in the hospital. I was going to be in there for Christmas," she said. "There were kids that were going to be in there longer than me and their parents didn't have money for them to get Christmas presents. There were so many kids going without stuff for the holidays. I just wanted to help."
Ashley says that experience inspired her to combine her October 20th birthday party with "Make A Difference Day." Each year instead of presents, she takes donations for projects to help others. This year, Ashley raised $600 for the troops, a success she says comes from the help of friends like Jaqueline Reynolds.
Jacqueline says she helps "because I'd rather be with my best friend than anything else."
"I know my friends are there for me," said Ashley. "I think as long as you have friends and family to support you, you can do anything."
Ashley Calcote raised enough money from her birthday party to also donate $600 in gift cards and gift certificates to Hope Haven, Hancock County's shelter for abused and neglected children.