An Ahwatukee Foothills family and local school came up with a unique way to support the troops overseas. For the past few weeks, third-grader Luke Brocco and his family collected Beanie Babies to send to the military in Afghanistan.

In all, with the help of the staff and students at Kyrene de la Colina Elementary School, they will be shipping more than 300 of the miniature stuffed animals overseas. Along with the toys, they will also be sending about 100 handwritten letters from Luke's class, thanking them for their service.

"A colleague of mine has a son in Afghanistan and we were looking at things, care packages, we could send over to him," said Tom Brocco, Luke's father. "Then I saw that some of the military like to have Beanie Babies because they can fit them in their pocket. And when they are out patrolling, they can give them to the children over there as kind of a peace offering."

The Broccos donated a lot of their own collection of Beanie Babies. All told, the Broccos will ship five boxes of Beanie Babies along with the letters to the son's unit in Afghanistan.

With the help of Luke's teacher, Sarah Elliott, the entire school got into the donation drive.

"My teacher really helped us get a lot of Beanie Babies," Luke said. "She talked to the principal, so the whole school knew about it. The letters came from the third-graders and they were all about the soldiers, and thanking the soldiers."

In addition to the Beanie Babies, students also donated many other toys, which Tom said they will be donating to the Toys for Tots drive.

"Doing something like this is a great opportunity to talk about giving back," he said. "We try to help out a lot this time of year, and it teaches the spirit of giving."

• Contact writer: (480) 898-4903 or troemhild@ahwatukee.com

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