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Vickroy: Praise for Southland’s generosity

Jacob Jung Boy Scout with Troop 911 recently collected more than 6500 supplies for troops Camp Clark Afghanistan.  |

Jacob Jung, a Boy Scout with Troop 911, recently collected more than 6,500 supplies for troops at Camp Clark in Afghanistan. | Donna Vickroy~Sun-Times Media

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Updated: October 11, 2013 6:15AM



Today’s column is dedicated to all of the generous, caring, thoughtful readers who give in so many ways — with goods, cash, kindness and prayers. Here are three follow-ups to recent columns:

Comforts from home

Maybe you donated a bottle of shampoo or a package of toothbrushes. Or perhaps you threw a bag of candy into the collection box, or handed the future Eagle Scout a few bucks to help pay for shipping.

However you assisted Tinley Park teenager Jacob Jung in his mission to collect everyday essentials for a much-loved Army chaplain and his fellow troops serving in Afghanistan, those soldiers want you to know your efforts are much appreciated.

When I learned in July that Jacob, 15, was collecting supplies for the soldiers at Camp Clark, where Chaplain Chris Doering — a former assistant pastor at St. George Church in Tinley Park — is now serving a second tour of duty, I fired off an email to the Catholic priest. I asked how he and the other troops were doing and if he could let me know when the supplies reached them.

The first round of goods arrived last week.

Via email, Doering described the reception.

“As the packages were opened, it was almost humorous seeing how excited people were getting over simple items like body wash, good brand-name deodorant, etc.,” he wrote. “It’s hard to believe there are ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’ over everyday household items. But when there is little access to such things, you begin to appreciate the simple things of life.”

In preparation for the U.S. withdrawal from Camp Clark next year, the post exchange has already closed, meaning there was no place where soldiers could go to buy things such as candy bars, gum and shaving cream.

Granted, Doering added, soldiers live without a lot of the comforts of home and still function well.

“But those little tastes from home mean so much — more than people will ever know,” he wrote. “Overall, it is a great morale booster.”

Like many of the parishioners at St. George Church, Jacob became enamored with Doering during the priest’s service there. Though Doering left to become pastor at Our Lady of Victory Church in Chicago in 2004, many of the Southland faithful have kept up with his whereabouts, particularly after he decided to join the military in 2010.

“I was inspired by Father Chris,” Jacob said. “He was not your ordinary priest. He is a cool guy who not only wanted to serve God but his country, too.”

Doering, 40, often struck a chord with congregants through his relevant sermons and chitchat about the Bears and his beloved White Sox. The fact that he played guitar and rode a motorcycle only seemed to make him more likable.

I interviewed Doering last year, after he returned from his first tour of duty in Kandahar. He had surprised parishioners one Sunday morning by helping St. George’s pastor, the Rev. Ken Fleck, officiate a special Mass at the church.

Afterward, he said that serving in the military had been a lifelong dream. A few years ago he realized the clock was ticking, so he went on a diet and enlisted.

At the time, he was one of just 10 military chaplains from the Archdiocese of Chicago serving.

This time, he is in the Regional Command East. He mostly moves throughout the Khost province, on the northeast side of Afghanistan near the Pakistan border, but his home base is Camp Clark. He is serving with the 61st Cavalry under 4th Brigade Combat Team of the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault).

He said that early on in this deployment Jacob emailed asking if he could make the soldiers at Camp Clark the beneficiaries of his Eagle Scout project.

“Who wouldn’t say yes to such an offer?” Doering said. “Any items from folks from the U.S.A. are always welcome! When care packages arrive, it is almost like Christmas. ... It is amazing to see how simple everyday items bring so much joy.”

Thanks to the generosity of local businesses and people across the Southland, Jacob, a sophomore at Lincoln-Way North High School, collected more than 6,500 items.

On the day the packages began arriving at Camp Clark, Doering said, “Our mail clerk told me, ‘You have a ton of packages and you’re going to need some help bringing it over to the Chapel Free X’ (a pun on the Army’s PX — post exchange).”

Doering said he is proud of Jacob’s desire to help others.

“It gives me great hope seeing a young man with such dedication,” he said. “I hope such a spirit is contagious with his peers.”

And as for all of you who helped Jacob achieve his goal, Doering said, “When I see packages come in from folks around the U.S.A. in support of our soldiers, I am most humbled by the kind words of support and their display of generosity. Granted we are thousands and thousands of miles from home, but it is wonderful to know there are people back in the States not only thinking of us but doing something for us.”

Praise for
Make-A-Wish granters

Last week I told you about a group of friends, led by Sally Foy Leigh, who have hosted a golf outing for the past 14 years to benefit Make-A-Wish. In all, the group has raised more than $400,000, enough to grant 62 wishes.

Soon after that column, I received this email from Jenni Schuster in Orland Park:

“My daughter, Selena, is one of the Wish Kids mentioned in the article. I am asking if it is possible for you to send a huge thank you to Sally and her troop for all the wishes they have made possible for kids like Selena. Her trip to Disney was magical, to say the least. I know Selena’s trip alone must have cost an enormous amount of money and we are so grateful to everyone who helped to make it possible. We are very blessed to have had a wonderful experience in Disney because of them and the MAW Foundation. Today, Selena is a healthy third-grader who loves school. We are grateful every day for that.”

Crete mom a Bake-off finalist

In late June, I told you about Julie Beckwith, a Crete mom and teacher who was taking a third stab at the Pillsbury Bake-Off.

I am happy to report that Julie received enough online votes to land a spot in the finals in November in Las Vegas.

She is hoping her Upside Down Tomato Basil and Chicken Tartlets will not only win in the Sweet Treats and Starters category, but also the top prize of $1 million.

We’re hopeful, too.



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