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Have a hero for a penpal, says Debbie Rego

Write to a member of the Canadian Armed Forces to say thank-you this holiday season
Debbie Rego, with letters dropped off in less than two weeks since the start of her letter-writing campaign. Miriam King/Bradford Today

Debbie Rego is an unapologetic about the inspiration for her letter-writing campaign.

She launched the campaign to encourage residents to write letters to members of the Canadian Armed Forces, in this season of Remembrance and as the holidays approach, to provide support and comfort to serving soldiers, especially those who may not have families of their own.

Her inspiration? “I was watching those cheesy Hallmark movies that I watch every year. There was one about soldiers…” she said, all about a letter from a stranger that made a difference. She thought, “That’d be kind of nice…”

Rego launched the letter-writing campaign on Facebook, a scant two weeks ago, hoping that people would embrace the idea of “writing to a hero,” and connecting with those who serve in the Armed Forces.

She was encouraged by her own sons, ages four and six– especially her six-year-old, who has been “obsessed with the Navy,” ever since receiving the medals earned by his great grandfather.

“I didn’t realize I’d get the response I did,” said Rego. She was bombarded with messages, and set up the Facebook group, here. It already has 60 members.

And she has already received 10 letters, dropped off at The Car Guy, the business operated by her husband and herself.

The support has been tremendous in such a short time. A customer of the business, who works at Canadian Forces Base Borden, has offered to take the letters up to the base, for distribution to those serving overseas.

Several schools have expressed interest in having classrooms write to Canadian soldiers.

One woman offered to donate stamps and greeting cards.

And there are now two other locations where residents can drop off their letters –  Laurie Smith at the Bond Head Post Office is welcoming the letters, and in Lefroy, Sandy Halley of Sand & Fire Pottery in the Foodland Plaza in Stroud, will also accept letters, extending the opportunity to Innisfil residents.

Anyone wanting to write to a Canadian hero is asked to leave the letter unaddressed, but to include their own address if they want a response and hope to correspond with a soldier.

“You can get a penpal out of it,” said Rego. “It’s neat.”

Rego herself has been writing letters to Canadian soldiers. “I’m writing as many as I can, and my sons are attaching pictures,” she said. “It’s going to be fun – something to ‘give back’.”

She has set a deadline of Nov. 30, to ensure that all letters will reach Canadian Armed Forces personnel by Christmas, and is hoping that when people bring their ‘letters to Santa’ to the Santa Claus Parade today, they’ll also think about dropping off a letter to a Canadian hero, serving in the armed forces, at The Car Guy, 131 Holland St. W.

Rego already has plans for next year. She’s hoping to create a new float for her business – one that honours serving soldiers,depicting a soldier in a remote location on one side of the float and a Canadian family on the other – connected by letters. 

Miriam King

About the Author: Miriam King

Miriam King is a journalist and photographer with Bradford Today, covering news and events in Bradford West Gwillimbury and Innisfil.
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