EGG HARBOR TOWNSHIP — On a train ride to Washington, D.C., earlier this year, 16-year-old Sydnie Pennington’s focus was drawn to a double amputee sitting not far from her on the train.
A logo on the man’s jacket showed that he was part of the Wounded Warrior Project, something that Pennington learned about by googling a description of the patch on her phone during the train ride. The national group seeks to honor wounded servicemen and women and raise awareness about their needs.
“I wanted to talk to him but then I just kind of froze. I just kept thinking about it though, and I wanted to do something to say thank you. So today is also my way to say thank you to him,” Pennington said at the Mays Landing Country Club on Sunday, where she organized a Wounded Warrior fundraiser to coincide with Veterans Day.
Dozens of people, including Assemblyman Chris Brown, gathered at the Country Club on Sunday evening to raise money through the event called Project Help W.I.N. (Warriors in Need). Local community members bought tickets to the event, and once inside, raffles and silent auctions raised additional funds. There was also an opportunity to send an electronic card to a veteran.
In his remarks at the event, Brown, a U.S. Army veteran, said Pennington was an example of a great American and commended her for taking action to organize the event at such a young age.
A junior at Egg Harbor Township High School, Pennington said she had volunteered for groups such as cancer support organization Gilda’s Club, but Sunday marked the first time she had done any work related to veterans. Along with her mom’s guidance, Pennington networked to organize donations for the event as well as entertainment from radio station Cat Country 107.3 FM.
Pennington also recruited a small crew of young volunteers for the event who greeted patrons at the door and helped to sell raffle tickets. Egg Harbor Township teens Sarah Woltmann, 16, Ryan Schromsky, 15, and Emily Woods, 16, all said they had no prior volunteer experience but were drawn to help out thanks to Pennington’s influence.
The event took on a special significance for Pennington, who said she plans to join the U.S. Navy.
“I just want to do anything I can to help. I’m hoping to make this an annual event,” Pennington said.
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