GORHAM, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- What started three years ago as a way to say thanks to the children of Maine service members, Operation Tribute has quickly grown to help thousands of kids throughout the Northeast.
"It really is time that we step up and show our appreciation," said Marc Badeau, the founder and driving force behind Operation Tribute. "The time for bumper sticker slogans is over. You know, putting the yellow ribbon on your car is nice, but this is a real way to be able to give back to the family and give back to the troops in a way that is very meaningful to them."
The way Operation Tribute works is simple. Service members sign up to receive a gift for their children and the organization ships a present to the child as a way to say thanks for their sacrifice.
The program, which started as a way to say thanks to Maine children in 2007, has quickly grown to offer the presents to kids in eight states this year. Badeau says he hopes to continue to grow the program to encompass all the kids of military members in the next five years.
"There is no child out there from a military family that should not be recognized for what they are doing, so bringing this program national is definitely the next step that we need to be focused on," said Badeau.
Operation Tribute has partnered with Dunkin' Donuts to raise awareness and support for their mission. From December 6th to the 10th, patrons who donate $2 to Operation Tribute will receive a coupon for a dollar off their next visit. Badeau sees corporate partnerships like this as a way to spread the word about the program and get more money to help even more kids.
The non-profits headquarters are in a small warehouse in Gorham. There volunteers come together to wrap the thousands of gifts that will be shipped to kids in all the New England states, New York, New Jersey and Ohio. That means an increase form the 9,000 kids served the first year to more then 38,000 this year.
"The kids give up something when their parents aren't at home for Christmas, and so I think it is really important to recognize that they give something up, as well as their parents," said Megan Story, president of the Gorham High School Key Club. The group has helped raise money and wrap gifts for the past three years. "It is something nice to just remind them that people are thinking of them and that we really care,"explained Story.
The club will be holding a Santa Breakfast this Saturday at Cressey Road United Methodist Church -- off Route 25 in Gorham -- from 8am-10:30am. They will be asking for a $5 donation for the pancake breakfast with a chance for kids to get picture taken with Santa. There will also be a silent auction to raise money for Operation Tribute.
If you would like more information on Operation Tribute, or would like to help out, you can find their website by clicking here.