The Inspiration – A Quiet Hero
Mireille Manzone was sixteen years old when she heard the words that would change her life. In the summer of 2004, at a high school leadership conference in Washington, D.C., she was fortunate to attend a powerful presentation given by Scott Rutter, a retired Lt. Col. in the US Army, on his experience in Iraq. Lt. Col. Rutter spoke of the incredible courage and valor he witnessed, but also of the many hardships that his soldiers endured. As his presentation was drawing to a close, Lt. Col. Rutter said something so poignant it became an image Mireille would never forget. Mail Day, he told the high school students, was often the loneliest day of the week for his soldiers, many of whom were barely older than his audience that day. While some of his soldiers might get a care package or letter from home, many of them never received anything – not a package or even a letter.
Imagining these men and women who sacrifice so much for us looking forward to mailday, only to walk away empty handed week after week, broke Mireille’s heart. She knew she had to do something. Mireille returned home after that weekend determined to find a way to show our service members that they were not being forgotten or taken for granted, and that those back home recognize and appreciate their service and sacrifices.
Those Who Opened Their Hearts
A few months later, thanks to the generosity of local churches, schools and VFW posts, the first Hugs for Heroes shipment — approximately 200 lbs of items and baked goods — was in the mail on the way to two Marine units in Iraq. The organization expanded rapidly by word of mouth, and Hugs for Heroes began to ship to a growing number of units. Before long, shipments were being sent out on a continuous basis, often to six or seven units at a time. Mireille had enlisted help collecting donations of items and monetary donations, and packing up the shipments. Local businesses and schools took up collections of items and wrote notes of appreciation, volunteers went door to door soliciting donations, and the local VFW posts continued their very generous support of Hugs for Heroes’ efforts, regularly making generous donations out of their own pockets to cover shipping costs.
Hugs for Heroes, Inc.
By 2006, Hugs for Heroes had been incorporated and had established its presence on the Boston College campus, where Mireille was now a student in the Honors Program. There, she reached out to the BC ROTC program, fellow students and staff members to help take up collections on campus, pack and mail even more shipments, many of which were sent to the BC alumni and their entire units.
Grateful for Support
Today, Hugs for Heroes, Inc. is still serving our troops. With the help of local businesses, organizations, churches and dedicated volunteers and veterans, we have succeeded in shipping nearly ten tons of care packages to our men and women serving overseas since 2004, and are planning to further expand our mission and outreach beyond what we have offered thus far.