Suffolk County will partner with the Red Cross of Long Island to collect toys and donations for the children and families of the 106th Rescue Wing this holiday season. County executive Steve Bellone has directed Tom Ronayne, Suffolk County director of veterans services, to spearhead the county’s efforts. The county’s collections will be donated at their annual Winter Blessing event on Monday, Dec. 10.
In March, seven members of the 106th Rescue Wing of the New York Air National Guard in Westhampton Beach died when a U.S. helicopter crashed in Iraq; four were from Long Island. Four Long Island members of the 106th were killed in action, including Major Andreas O’Keeffe, Master Sergeant Christopher Raguso, Technical Sergeant Dashan Briggs, and Major Christopher Zanetis.
“It’s our profound duty to take care of the families of those who have served our country,” said Bellone. “In this season of giving, it gives me great joy to help give back to the children of the 106th Rescue Wing.”
“We are so thankful to the county executive for working with our Long Island Red Cross board members to give something back to the brave members of the 106th Rescue Wing and their families,” said Neela Lockel, CEO of the American Red Cross of Long Island. “This holiday toy drive is a way to thank these heroes and their families for their courage, compassion and sacrifice. The effort is a natural extension of the Red Cross‘s Service to the Armed Forces, which serves 2 million personnel annually.”
The holiday toy drive will provide more than 200 servicemen and women, along with their families, with toys and gifts for the season, prior to their upcoming service deployment. The Red Cross of Long Island’s goal is to collect a total of 450 individual toys/gifts, including some gender-neutral, some for girls and some for boys, all within an age range of 0-15 years.
To donate to the holiday toy drive, Suffolk County is collecting donations in the lobbies of the H. Lee Dennison building, the Riverhead County Center office building, and the John L. Barry Police Headquarters in Yaphank.