RED BANK– Around 3,500 greeting cards were collected by students of Red Bank Catholic High School recently and will be sent to veterans as part of the Zilinski Memorial Fund.
“When we learned of The Lt. Dennis W. Zilinski, II Memorial Fund, we knew that we wanted to contribute in any way that we could. After we put it out to the Red Bank Catholic community that we were collecting greeting cards for the Veterans, we were overwhelmed by support, RBC National Honor Society President Olivia Morin said.
Morin added that students collected the cards, “far exceeding our expectations. I am so glad that I was a part of organizing the event for this cause and completing the project started last year by RBC alumna, Paige Comerford. This was the greatest way to end my senior year, knowing that my hard work made a difference for those fighting overseas.”
Comerford said, “the onset of the pandemic in March 2020, meant that instruction at RBC had to go online. It also meant my service project for NHS was halted. This cause is particularly special to me as my Dad was an Army Ranger. When he was stationed in remote parts of the world, there were no places for him to pick up greeting cards to send back to his mom, dad, and siblings.”
“It makes my heart full to know my classmates at RBC took my idea and ran with it, bringing smiles to the faces of many deployed soldiers sacrificing for our freedom,” Comerford, a pre-med student who just completed her first year at Clemson University, added.
Michael Ientile, NHS Faculty Advisor and Mathematics Teacher at RBC, noted that “going into the year with all the challenges, this was the one drive the students put at the top of the priority list. Last year, we were organizing the details and weighing all our options for one big event when Covid hit, and we finished the school year virtually.”
“When the school year started and students started to normalize their daily lives, The Dennis Zilinski Memorial Fund was brought right back up. The students ran through all necessary details and were passionate to donate towards the cause. While the groundwork was laid out last year, it was a great sense of achievement for this year’s students to pick up where they left off and make such a contribution,” Ientile added.
Marion Zilinski, Co-Founder and Board Member of The Zilinski Memorial Fund, met with student organizers and faculty at Red Bank Catholic to thank them for their hard work and collect the cards. She told them, “freedom is not free, it is on the backs of our brave men and women who serve our country. Giving them birthday, Father’s Day, Christmas, Hanukkah, and other greetings cards is so special, because they long to send home warm messages to loved ones and often don’t have anything to write on.”
She added, “think about that little boy and girl who’ll receive a card from mom or dad and how much that will mean to them. There’s no CVS or Walgreens at the corner in these places overseas where they’re stationed to buy cards. In lots of these locations, they have only desert and mountains, not even roads. These cards really are very meaningful… thank you so much. We’ll box them up and get them shipped out right away.”
The Lt. Dennis W. Zilinski, II Memorial Fund was created and founded in 2006 to honor Lt. Dennis Zilinski (Matthew’s brother) who was killed by a roadside bomb in Iraq in 2005. The 23-year-old was a Middletown, resident, a Christian Brothers Academy alumnus, and a distinguished West Point graduate.
Dennis was a member of the 187th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team of the 101st Airborne Division. Since his untimely death, family and friends have united with the Memorial Fund to provide support to improve the morale and welfare of members of the United States Armed Forces and their families.
A chief project of the Lt. Dennis W. Zilinski, II Memorial Fund is sponsoring service dogs for disabled American veterans suffering from PTSD and TBI. To date, the Memorial Fund has sponsored more than 100 service dogs.
The Memorial Fund also provides scholarships to students at Lt. Zilinski’s alma mater, Christian Brothers Academy. By providing these scholarships, the Memorial Fund invests in the future of high school students who embody the leadership qualities and community spirit of Lt. Zilinski.
Donations may be sent to: Lt. Dennis W. Zilinski, II Memorial Fund, P.O. Box 124, Adelphia, NJ 07710 or made online at runwithdennis.org.