LOGISTICS SUPPORT AREA ANACONDA, Iraq, March 28, 2007 - A program that will provide hundreds of soccer balls to Iraqi children began with a mother who wanted to send them candy.

Spc. Daniel McCoy from Omaha, Neb., a soldier with the 134th Infantry Long Range Surveillance Detachment, said his mother, Sue Behr, wanted to do something for Iraqi children. He mentioned that soccer balls would be a good idea, since the children enjoy the game and are always asking for them.

Behr walks McCoy's little sister to elementary school each day, and mentioned to a counselor, Nancy Wedberg, about her son being deployed to Iraq. When Wedberg asked what the school could do to support him, Behr suggested the soccer balls. In September, Wedberg began a program she called "Our Child to Child" and began speaking to parents and children at other schools she serves.

"I was talking about the project at the other school I serve as a counselor and the parents there wanted their kiddos to be involved," Wedberg said in an e-mail interview. "Then the principal of a third school asked, so ultimately students from three elementary schools participated."

The first of 290 soccer balls were shipped here in December. Many of McCoy's family and friends donated to the effort and businesses also contributed. One teacher, who wished to remain anonymous, gave $400 to help cover the shipping expense of the $1,800 worth of balls, Wedberg said.

Many of the children were involved from start to finish on the project.
"About half of the 290 balls shipped were bought by students earning $5 to buy a ball for a child in Iraq," Wedberg said.

Once the soccer balls arrived in Omaha, the students had the opportunity to place a picture of themselves on a ball with their name. Peggy Rupprecht and the District Print Shop Staff worked hard to ensure the student picture and print cards were done for the students, Wedberg said.

The project saw its first products delivered on March 6 in the tiny village of Al Jamiah, Iraq, which is heavily populated with children. After the unit's regular mission was complete, McCoy invited some children to join him by his Humvee. He proceeded to the trunk, popped the hatch, and dug out a huge bag with several balls.

The children went wild with excitement. While several soldiers from the 134th Infantry, LRSD, kept the area secure and safe, other trunks started to open up. Soon the town was full of youths wanting to get a soccer ball.

Not all of the balls were delivered to Al Jamiah, as the 134th Infantry will be able to visit other towns and villages surrounding Logistical Support Area Anaconda where the 1st Squadron, 167th Cavalry (Reconnaissance, Surveillance, Target and Acquisition) defends the base.

McCoy, who serves as both a gunner and a driver for his unit, said he made sure that the children got a fair share and he purposely made sure that one little girl was given a ball. He said he was looking forward to seeing the children at the schools in Omaha when he returns from his deployment.

"The whole thing was neat. It is amazing how I don't even know Nancy Wedberg except through e mails," he said "I have only been to my sister's school once and I already feel a bond with the school."