When three aspects of one's life converge, the outcome can surpass even the greatest expectations.
Brieana Caggiano is a sophomore on the Johnson & Wales University women's soccer team, and community service is something that both she and the program have always valued. Caggiano's family also has ties to the military, putting in place the third and final piece to the puzzle.
A native of Edgewater Park, NJ, Caggiano's uncle was recently deployed for his first rotation overseas. Family friends of Brieana's – TJ and Rachel Majernik, who Brie often says with here in Denver – have also served in the Air Force, so the idea of doing something thoughtful for the troops was fresh in Caggiano's mind.
When the Majerniks mentioned how much troops appreciate small acts of kindness, the idea of putting together care packages for soldiers stationed overseas was a no brainer. Finding the funds to buy supplies, and then putting the care packages together seemed like the hard part, but Brie quickly realized that a team effort goes a long way.
For the first month of the season the JWU Denver women's soccer team began accepting donations at every home game. But with only four home matches in the month of September, Brie knew her team could only do so much, so she reached out to the university's men's soccer and volleyball teams for help. Both squads, along with the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee, were more than willing to do their part. And by the end of the month, Caggiano and her teammates were blown away at the results.
Together the three programs raised close to $500 for the care packages.
"I wasn't expecting to get as much as we did," Caggiano said. "My original goal was just to collect $200. The fact that we got just under $500 is pretty impressive."
As much as the total amount delighted Caggiano, she was also surprised to find out where a lot of the money came from.
"I made sure I personally went and thanked some of the people we collected money from, because at one of our home games there was a parent or grandparent from the other team who donated $50, so I went and personally thanked them," she said. "I had a whole 10-minute conversation about how he was in the war and how much this is something they all appreciate while they're over there. That felt really good, because it was like, this is why we're doing it."
After raising the funds, Caggiano then went around to local retailers to purchase all the supplies for the care packages, which include everything from hygiene products and snacks to brain games and puzzles. "Just little things that make their day, to give them a little bit of a break from the situation that they happen to be in," Caggiano said.
Finally, Brie and her fellow Wildcats decided to add a personal touch by writing letters to be sent with the care packages. Along with expressing their gratitude, several Wildcats chose to include some light-hearted "Dad jokes"– really, anything to make the troops smile.
"Something to let them know we care," Brie said. "'Hey, we're thinking about you here at Johnson & Wales. We care about you, we want you to get home safe. Here's something to either keep your mind busy or here's something to just make you smile for the day.'"
Now that the care packages are ready to be shipped, Caggiano wanted thank everyone who helped make her idea become a reality – her fellow JWU Denver student-athletes, coaches, parents and those who donated to the cause.
The sophomore also hopes this isn't just a one-time project, but rather something that becomes a yearly tradition at JWU.
"I just hope they enjoy the care packages and they all get to come home safe."