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Elon freshman coordinates project to give back to troops

Nonprofit organization provides troops with video games

by Caitlin O'Donnell,
  • Photo submitted Freshman Peter Gallagher and his friend Jack Wilson pose with Sgt. James Lock, one of the troops who benefit from the charity Wilson and Gallagher started. The charity donates handheld video games to troops deployed oversees.

While most high school students were spending their time dwelling on their social lives and school work, Peter Gallagher set his sights elsewhere.

Gallagher, who will be a freshman at Elon this fall, founded a non-profit organization called Games for Heroes with friend Jack Wilson, sending video games to troops overseas.

"About two years ago a buddy of mine and I were talking about helping the troops," Gallagher said. "We talked to Marines, and the most requested item is handheld video games."

According to the organization's website, these include Gameboys, PSPs and Nintendo DSs.

"These boys are young – 18, 19, 20 years old," Gallagher said. "There was no unique charity set up for this."

Starting with friends and family in their hometown of Westchester, N.Y., the friends asked their various contacts for donations and posted fliers throughout the county. It just built up from there, Gallagher said.

Since the organization officially began about two and a half years ago, Games for Heroes has collected cash donations and more than 100,000 handheld games, Gallagher said.

"Companies such as Sony, Capcom and EA Games donated a lot," he said.

Their website also lists K-mart, Target and Penny Arcade as other major sponsors of the project.

But games are not the only gifts Gallagher has sent to troops.

"During sophomore year spring break, we went to a public elementary school and asked kids to write letters and draw pictures for the soldiers," he said.

According to the website, more than 1,000 letters from the students and staff were mailed, along with drawings and candy.

"We already had the plan for Games for Heroes before our letter writing campaign, but that was the starting point," Gallagher said.

Gallagher and Wilson have received letters of thanks from both troops in the field as well as their parents.

"They really appreciate what we do," Gallagher said. "It makes what we do all worthwhile."

He says his best experience was meeting and talking with troops in Westchester and having the opportunity to give something back to them,

Wilson will be attending Union College in N.Y., but they hope to continue coordinating the project from school, Gallagher said.

Since its origination, the two friends have directed and coordinated the project entirely on their own. Though not much has changed regarding the purpose of the organization, Gallagher said it's run on a much larger scale.

"(We want) to keep doing this until the last troop comes home from war," he said. "No matter the reason they're out there, they still need to be appreciated."