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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Thankful students raise money for troops

    Jason Bondzio, a masters student and kicker for the UA football team, was the first supporter of the Thankful for Freedom organization.
    Jason Bondzio, a masters student and kicker for the UA football team, was the first supporter of the Thankful for Freedom organization.

    Three seniors, two from the UA and one from Oregon State University, have started a campaign to raise $5 million to support American military personnel.

    Ryan Brown, a finance senior, Nick Stewart, an accounting senior and Brock Ameele, a media communication senior at Oregon State, launched Thankful for Freedom last month and say support for the campaign is growing.

    Their plan is to sell one million T-shirts, each at $15, over the next year. A third of the proceeds will be given to charities that support veterans and active-duty members of the Armed Forces such as Operation Care Package, Disabled American Veterans and Hire Heroes.

    “”It’s been great seeing everyone, especially college students, being so supportive,”” Ameele said.

    Brown wanted to give back to the soldiers that he said are fighting for freedom and the opportunity for a better life.

    “”I had an epiphany – I realized I had been taking things for granted and I wanted to give back,”” Brown said.

    Stewart said his main reason for getting involved was his parents’ service in the United States Navy.

    Growing up surrounded by military personnel and friends on active duty is an immense motivatior, he said.

    “”A lot of people have lost touch with what the military does for us,”” Stewart said. “”We want to reconnect people with supporting our troops, no matter what their point of view is on the war.””

    The shirts are olive green and feature a large yellow ribbon design on the front that reads “”Thankful,”” reminiscent of the ribbons that have adorned cars and lapels since the Sept. 11 attacks.

    The shirts are being manufactured by Nodix, an Oregon-based company.

    The students have launched a viral marketing campaign that utilizes social networking sites such as MySpace and Facebook and Internet blogs.

    They have gained the support of actor Matthew McConaughey, whose agent purchased 12 of the approximately 50 shirts sold so far.

    The first person to buy a shirt was Jason Bondzio, a placekicker on the UA football team and Brown’s roommate.

    “”If not in the military, it’s a great way to back the troops,”” he said.

    The rest of the proceeds will go to materials, shipping, marketing and maintaining the Web site the shirts are sold from,

    The students said they used their own money to start the campaign, which carries no outward political stance.

    “”We do not have a stance on whether the war is right or wrong,”” Brown said. “”This is about the soldiers and the situation they are in.””

    Added Ameele, “”We’re just normal people trying to help out people who do an extraordinary job protecting freedom.””

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