Operation Gratitude: A 10 year old’s Mission to Give Back to the Troops
Congressman Daniel Webster presents Jackson Ruppe with a Certificate of Appreciation plaque from the Greater Hernando County Chamber of Commerce. Congressman Webster was the guest speaker at the Hernando County Chamber’s ‘Downtown Brooksville Now’ monthly breakfast meeting.
Jackson Ruppe wanted to do something nice for American troops serving in Iraq during the holidays. So the 10-year-old and his dad, Chris Ruppe, took to the computer to find a way for the Hernando Christian Academy fifth-grader to make some kind of difference. Jackson’s Operation Gratitude 2016 launched as his effort to provide kindness to soldiers serving overseas. “My Grampa is a veteran and my heart goes out to troops who are not home this time of year,” Jackson wrote on his Facebook event’s page.
His father helped him create the event and invited as many friends, family and acquaintances to participate. And Jackson set to work, finding items to add to a “Wish List” for active military. They designed and printed a flyer that they spread around to area businesses and Jackson’s school. And Jackson’s teacher, Janessa Rivera, helped her students hand them out. She also posted one on the wall of the classroom. Before long, Jackson’s classmates jumped onboard and crafted letters and cards for the soldiers who are serving. They also brought in items to include in the packages Jackson would be mailing. Notebooks, pens and pencils so they could write home, warm fuzzy socks, gum and candy.
What was the most surprising item he collected? “Cell phones,” Jackson said. “I couldn’t believe someone would actually donate a phone.”
What wasn’t so surprising to his parents is that Jackson had come up with the idea to do something like this. “Jackson has always been interested in the armed services,” said his mother, Kristie Ruppe. Her father, Dave Bennet, is a Vietnam veteran who served in the Army. Jackson is close to his grandfather, who lives in Timber Pines. “He was talking to his grandpa about the troops and shortly after he began doing research on what he could do to help.”
Kristie describes her son as typically quiet but with a big heart for anyone in need. “He is always inspiring us to be gratuitous to others and thankful for everything we have.”
Supporting the troops from the heart of a fifth-grader snowballed into a mission that inspired Jackson’s classmates. With the guidance of his teacher, the class broke into pen and paper and wrote heartfelt messages to men and women they didn’t even know by name. Some also brought in items. Gus Rich said he sent socks because his uncle, who is serving in the Air Force, told him how much his feet hurt.
Jackson’s passion was mirrored by the community as well. Many items were donated through his father’s business, Gator Nutrition. By the deadline he set of Nov. 15, Jackson had collected 60 notebooks, 225 pens or pencils, five cellphones, 49 pairs of socks, and over 600 pieces of candy.
All the items and letters were boxed and shipped Monday to Iraq in time for Thanksgiving.
When asked why he wanted to take the time and do something so generous, Jackson hesitated a moment, as if he was confused why anyone wouldn’t want to do the same thing. Then he smiled and said “Because I was born.”
Thank you Jackson, for your great support of our Troops. You are an outstanding young man!