Greeting cards for soldiers collected by students

Red Bank Catholic National Honor Society students recently collected nearly 3,500 greeting cards to send to deployed troops. (Photo courtesy of Lt. Dennis W. Zilinski, II Memorial Fund)

RED BANK– Approximately 3,500 greeting cards were recently collected by students at Red Bank Catholic High School and will be sent to veterans as part of the Zilinski Memorial Fund.

“When we heard about the Lt. Dennis W. Zilinski, II Memorial Fund, we knew we wanted to contribute in any way we could. After announcing to the Catholic community at Red Bank that we were collecting greeting cards for veterans, we were overwhelmed with support, said RBC National Honor Society President Olivia Morin.

Morin added that the students collected the cards, “far exceeding our expectations. I am very happy to have participated in the organization of the event for this cause and the realization of the project launched last year by the former RBC, Paige Comerford. It was the best way to end my senior year, knowing that my hard work has made a difference for those fighting overseas.

Comerford said: “The onset of the pandemic in March 2020 meant instructions to RBC had to go live. It also meant that my service project for the NHS was interrupted. This cause is particularly close to my heart because my father was an Army Ranger. When he was stationed in remote parts of the world, there was nowhere he could pick up greeting cards to send back to his mother, father, and siblings.

Michael Ientile, RBC NHS advisor and math teacher, left, joins Veronica Faustino, RBC Senior, Olivia Morin, RBC Senior, Marion Zilinski, co-founder and board member Zilinski Memorial Fund, Jeannine Guarillio, RBC NHS advisor and chair of Mathematics, Karen Falco, Associate Director RBC, Robert Abatemarco, Director RBC. (Photo courtesy of Lt. Dennis W. Zilinski, II Memorial Fund)

“It fills my heart to know that my classmates at RBC took my idea and followed it, bringing smiles to the faces of many deployed soldiers who sacrifice themselves for our freedom,” Comerford, a pre-med student who just completed her freshman year at Clemson University, added.

Michael Ientile, NHS education adviser and RBC professor of mathematics, noted that “at the start of the year with all the challenges, this was the only motivation that students put at the top of the priority list. Last year we were sorting out the details and weighing all of our options for a big event when Covid hit, and we ended the school year virtually.

“When the school year started and students began to normalize their daily lives, the Dennis Zilinski Memorial Fund was reinstated. The students went over all the necessary details and were eager to donate to the cause. Although the groundwork was laid last year, it was a great sense of accomplishment 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 the 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 a birthday, Father’s Day, Christmas, Hanukkah and other greeting cards is so special because they yearn to send warm messages to their loved ones and often have nothing to write about.

She added: “Think of that little boy and that little girl who will be getting a card from mom or dad and all it will mean to them. There’s no CVS or Walgreens around the corner from these places to abroad where they are stationed to buy maps. In many of these places there is only desert and mountains, not even roads. These maps are really very meaningful… thank you very much. We pack them and ship immediately.

The Lt. Dennis W. Zilinski, II Memorial Fund was established and founded in 2006 to honor Lt. Dennis Zilinski (brother of Matthew) who was killed by a roadside bomb in Iraq in 2005. The 23-year-old was a resident of Middletown, an alumnus of Christian Brothers Academy, and a distinguished graduate of West Point.

Dennis was a member of the 187th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team of the 101st Airborne Division. Since his untimely death, his 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.

Marion Zilinski, co-founder and board member of the Zilinski Memorial Fund, stands next to a table filled with greeting cards collected by the Red Bank Catholic High School National Honor Society. (Photo courtesy of Lt. Dennis W. Zilinski, II Memorial Fund)

A primary project of the Lt. Dennis W. Zilinski, II Memorial Fund sponsors service dogs for disabled U.S. veterans with PTSD and TBI. To date, the Memorial Fund has sponsored over 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 is investing in the future of high school students who embody Lt. Zilinski’s leadership qualities and community spirit.

Donations can be sent to: Lt. Dennis W. Zilinski, II Memorial Fund, PO Box 124, Adelphia, NJ 07710 or online at runwithdennis.org.

Mika R. Pyle