On Wednesday and Thursday, over 1,000 paratroopers from the 82nd Airborne Division of Fort Bragg, North Carolina took part in the second annual All-American Presents from Paratroopers toy drive (A2P2), donating anywhere from 1,500 to 2,000 toys to local children in need.
The event was held in partnership with the Travis Mills Foundation, an organization that treats families of wounded military veterans to vacation getaways in Maine.
By donating a toy, each paratrooper was automatically entered into a special raffle to participate in a parachute jump with a member of the Chilean military. Roughly 600 of the paratroopers won the prize, earning a special foreign patch for their uniforms for their effort.
The foundation plans to give the toys to different organizations throughout the state including the Fort Bragg USO, the North Carolina Children’s Home Society, the Armed Services YMCA, the Cumberland County Sheriff’s Department and the Fayetteville Urban Ministry, the publication stated.
To qualify for the special jump, soldiers had to be assigned to an airborne unit and on active jump status, though active officers in the North Carolina National Guard and Army Reserve were also eligible to join, the Army Times reported.
The paratroopers did helicopter jumps for one day and cargo plane jumps for another into two designated drop zones. The vehicles operated at reduced capacity and all participants wore masks to help reduce the possibility of a COVID-19 outbreak.
The Travis Mills Foundation isn’t the only state organization donating to North Carolinian children in need during the holidays.
The North Carolina Community Action Association, a group dedicated to helping impoverished families throughout the state, is holding a 12-days of Christmas challenge so that it may distribute presents and food boxes to families in need. The care packages average about $15 per individual and $100 per family.
North Carolina ranks 11th among U.S. states with the highest rates of childhood poverty, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. The data showed that children in the state experience poverty at a rate of 21.2 percent, and children in rural counties and the state’s Eastern region were more likely to live in poverty.
An estimated 43 percent of all children in North Carolina live in poor or low-income homes, according to NC Child, a state child advocacy organization. The organization has reported that childhood poverty increases a child’s chances for reduced success in school, more exposure to violence, hunger, abuse and neglect and parents caught in the judicial system.