Students prepare holiday gifts for US troops in Afghanistan

Posted: Updated:
HAWTHORNE -

Westchester students prepared holidays gifts Wednesday for troops overseas who won't be able to make it home.

Parish children from Holy Rosary Church in Hawthorne stuffed stockings for American soldiers who are on a nine-month tour in Afghanistan.

Organizer Cathy Praino lost her nephew, Army National Guard Sgt. Christian Engeldrum, when he was serving in Iraq back in 2004.  He was a New York City firefighter based in the Bronx and re-enlisted after 9/11.

"This is my mission after he was killed,” she says.

Praino rounded up volunteers from her Tremont-based American Legion Post and the support then spread to Westchester County.

"The very first box I packed, I put a note in, ‘I lost my nephew, I'm adopting all of you as my new nieces and nephews.’ The cards, the letters came back, 'Dear Aunt Cathy, thanks for not forgetting us,’” she says.

Volunteers have sent 7,000 packages overseas to the troops to honor Praino’s nephew over the past 14 years.

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