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Darien Teen Leads Drive to Support the Troops

DARIEN, Conn. – Darien High School junior Katie Farren gets a lot of satisfaction out of volunteering with community groups, especially Operation Darien Little League Cares.

This weekend, for the second straight year, the 17-year-old will oversee DLL Cares' annual drive to collect donations for American soldiers. She has participated for all five years the Little League has had the program, and took over as coordinator from her older brother, Tommy. Her father, Tony, was the former president of Darien Little League, the largest in the U.S.

Katie volunteers for the Youth Common Fund and the Challenger Buddies program in Darien Little League, and serves on the student council at the high school, where she ran for the cross country and indoor track teams. She also teaches religion at St. Thomas More Church.

“I love all of them,’’ Katie says. “But this one takes the cake. It helps people overseas, and it brings the whole community together. I read a story that many people don’t do a whole lot to remember soldiers on Memorial Day. DLL Cares is the opposite of what most people do. Everybody takes part.”

Katie and her team of volunteers will collect donations at McGuane Park Saturday and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Donations include toiletries, non-perishable foods and miscellaneous items, everything from air fresheners to baby wipes. The drive has picked up momentum every year. Nearly 200 soldiers received packages the first year. Last year, that number was about 320. Katie is hoping for around 350 this year.

The items are collected and packed all weekend, and will be shipped out next week. The reward for Katie comes from the soldiers' response. Many write back to express their appreciation.

“A few years ago, a soldier wrote and was very thankful, but he was also so selfless," Katie says. "He encouraged us to stay in school and keep playing sports, those kinds of things. It was very motivating.”

One wrote on the Darien Little League website : "I received your care packages a few days ago. Your care packages were empty within 5 min of opening them. The soldiers love to receive care packages. Not all soldiers get a lot of mail or get any at all. So to receive a package it can brighten a soldiers day."

The drive has received contributions from groups throughout town. Darien High School science teacher George Marrash, who served in the military himself, and the school’s Support Our Soldiers club have been big supporters. Katie’s parents, Tony and Maria, will be among the volunteers packing boxes this weekend.

It’s a big undertaking for a teenage girl, but the cause is important to Katie. “I’m very patriotic. It means a lot to me to support our troops,’’ she said. “It’s been a great experience. It’s very rewarding.”

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