Christmas may seem a long way away, but a website for military families is urging Canadians to make plans to send gifts to soldiers who will be stationed overseas during the holidays.
Angeie Zuber, site manager of MarriedtotheCanadianForces.com, says members of many military families have told her that soldiers deployed overseas want some fun, and that's what she wants to give them.
Zuber, who is based at Canadian Forces Base Shilo in Manitoba, is seeking fun, shoebox-sized items — such as balloons, silly putty, paddle balls or music CDs.
She is asking businesses and recording artists to make donations to her "Adopt-a-Soldier" program, so they can be sent to soldiers deployed overseas.
"It's not just going to the soldiers in Afghanistan. It is going to every single deployed soldier, whether they are in Afghanistan or whether they are … on a ship," Zuber told CBC News.
She is asking corporations for 3,700 donations of each item, to ensure no soldier is left out. She said the responses she's received so far have been encouraging.
"We have received letters or e-mails back almost immediately, saying, 'Your request has been sent along,' so at least they're paying attention," she said. "We hope [the response] will be fantastic."
Gift boxes will be shipped in September
Zuber faced a number of hurdles setting up the program, notably concerns about operational security. However, with some persistence, she has obtained permission from military and government officials, and has arranged to have the shoeboxes sent to the troops along with other shipments.
Now, military spouses across the country are helping the group to solicit donations.
"It's important to know that the people back home are thinking about them and they support them," said Rachel Lambert, who lives in Edmonton.
"To get these little items, I think, will be a big boost at Christmas time, especially being separated from their families."
The donations will be packed and shipped from Montreal in September.