Alice Smith

Elementary-age youth at the YMCA Summer Day Camp worked out with Alice Smith recently and learned about her 22 for 22 challenge to support deployed military service members. The youngsters were encouraged to make cards and draw pictures to put in care packages to be sent overseas.

Alice Smith — of Glade Hill — is on a mission, a mission to end military and vetaran suicides, and she’s using her good health and big heart to do it.

Her mission is called 22 for 22, based on information from a study conducted by the Department of Veterans Affairs which found that an average of 22 veterans commit suicide each day. Smith said that information is “just chilling” to her.

Military personnel are near and dear to Smith’s heart. She has a number of friends who are or have been deployed.

One such friend is Lindsay Etherton who serves in the U.S. Army. She and her team are currently serving overseas.

“I had been wanting to make care packages anyway, but then [Etherton] lost a military friend to suicide and that really double-motivated me to get moving,” Smith said.

To raise awareness about veteran suicide and to show gratitude to Etherton’s team, Smith started a 22-day challenge on June 3 in honor of Etherton whom, Smith says is an “amazing friend.”

For each day of the challenge, Smith has committed to doing 22 burpees, 22 pushups, 22 sit ups and to run 2.2 miles. She is asking for $22 sponsorships. The goal is to collect $2,200 to fund care packages to send to Etherton’s team.

Smith is also encouraging people to write letters, send cards or have children draw pictures to include in the care packages.

An insurance agent by trade, Smith also serves as a YMCA board member and teacher. She recently met with YMCA day camp kids to explain the importance of expressing gratitude to military service members who leave the comforts of home and family to fight to protect us. She encouraged the children to draw pictures and make cards to include in the boxes. While with the campers, Smith encouraged the 35 elementary students to come up on stage with her to do some burpees, pushups and sit ups.

YMCA Child Care Director Jamie Stump invited Smith to come see the children.

“Alice is a long-time friend,” Stump said. “I support everything she does. It’s important we support those who protect us.”

Smith appreciated the opportunity to be with the children and said, “[Stump] likes to do things with them to teach them about community service.”

As of press time, a little more than $1,300 had been raised.

“My spirit is bursting,” Smith said. “I started this [challenge] with a goal of $2,200 simply because it was a catchy number. I was expecting to maybe make $500. We are on day 4 and are already at over $1,200. We may hit that goal after all.”

One person donated a paper grocery bag filled with hotel travel soaps and shampoos, her husband collected from his travels. Smith said those items are perfect to be included in the care packages. The local McDonald’s has also gotten in on the action, pledging to donate condiments to flavor the food the deployed troops eat. Smith added the food the military members eat during deployment is “very bland.”

She said she has been “blown away” by the community’s support.

“Just yesterday I was running and was kind of just getting it done when an absolutely amazing fellow runner friend was across the street and shouted, ‘Keep running for Lindsay,’” she said. “The response has been 100% positive. There has been so much love and support for the 22 for 22 fundraiser. A number of people have told me their stories of how they or someone they love have been impacted by PTSD [Post Traumatic Stress Disorder].”

Donations may be made via Facebook at www.facebook.com/donate/340123079986574. Donations, cards, letters and pictures can be mailed to Ferguson Fitness at 2020 Brambleton Ave. SW, Roanoke, VA 24015.

Free, confidential support is available 24/7 for veterans in crisis. For help, call the Veterans Crisis Line at 1-800-273-8255 or send a text message to 838255.

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