Nicole Lillich braved near-freezing temperatures Dec. 18, to pick up a highchair, crib bedding sets, onesies and baby toys at the Armed Services YMCA building on Jackson Street.

The wife of Spc. Frank Lillich, a 4th Psychological Operations Group Soldier, Nicole said receiving the gifts makes it easier not to rely on Family members to get Christmas items for the Lillich's two daughters, Madison, 15 months and Rachael, 4 months.

"I'm really excited, with two babies under 2 years old, they need all this stuff. Supporting two of them gets pretty tight this time of year, and this is really awesome help," Lillich said. "I'm really excited to have Christmas gifts and not have to depend on the grandparents."

The giveaway was the inaugural launch of Operation All 'Bout Children, an initiative of Operation Homefront of North Carolina, a military-support organization.

Tracy Curran serves as the Operation Homefront community representative for Fort Bragg.
Gifts were donated by Kolcraft, Wal-Mart and the Kids in Distressed Situations, Inc. Foundation, said Curran.

Families with babies born between March 1 and midnight Dec. 17, preregistered online to receive the gifts. To claim the items, Families had to present proof-of-birth documentation and military identification.

The ASYMCA parking lot filled quickly as Families turned out to pick up their gifts.
Among them was Pfc. Tyler Humbert, of the 108th Military Police Company.

Humbert, who has a 5-month-old daughter, Peyton, said he learned about Operation ABC from his wife, Samantha.

"I think it's awesome. It's a good deal not having to pay for it. A lot of people have a lot of other stuff to worry about, but this takes a lot of stress off people," said Humbert, as he prepared to collect the baby items and toys.

Among those also collecting gifts was Gretchen Wester, the wife of Air Force Staff Sgt. William Wester, a member of the 24th Special Tactics Squad.

The mother of 8-week-old triplets learned about the event from a friend and Army spouse. Wester said she initially thought she would only receive highchairs for each of her two girls and her boy. However, in addition to the highchairs, Wester received a number of other gifts for her children.
"I didn't realize it was going to be all this, and now I'm getting all teary," said Wester. "This was amazing. The Army has always stepped up to help with Families. I'm really impressed."

Jim Cunliffe seemed to beam as he watched Soldiers load up three highchairs for Wester's triplets. Cunliffe served as a representative of Kolcraft, the company that donated the highchairs.

"We're just glad to do it. We wanted to support this project," said Cunliffe, who was joined by his wife, Linda. "We want to be involved with these kinds of things, especially when it's to do with children."

Soldiers from various companies helped carry and pack gifts in waiting vehicles. One of those volunteers was Pvt. Bradley Cortez, of 1st Battalion, 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division.

"This makes me feel amazing. It makes me feel like I've done my good deeds," Cortez said.
Operation ABC lasted until 1 p.m., but Curran said other quarterly events would take place in the future.

Lynne Grates, ASYMCA's executive director, said Operaton ABC reminds her of the ASYMCA's baby bundle program. The program provides a layette for new mothers who are active duty, E-4 and below, and also to spouses of active-duty Soldiers E-4 and below.
Grates said she donated the use of the ASYMCA facility to Operation Homefront of North Carolina because it is a great organization.

"Their heart is in the right place, and they are doing stuff for our Soldiers and Families," Grates said.

Page last updated Fri January 8th, 2010 at 14:50