Fans asked to help Iraqi school children at Oct. 27 football game

BLACKSBURG, Va., Oct. 12, 2005 – Virginia Tech has teamed with Spirit of America, a non-profit organization that provides support to frontline military and civilians who are helping to advance freedom and democracy; the Christiansburg Wal-Mart; Premier Transfer and Storage; and J&A Partners to launch an outreach project that will provide Iraqi school children with much-needed classroom supplies.

Designated "Operation Provide Classroom Comfort," the program focuses on an effort to encourage all who attend the Virginia Tech vs. Boston College football game at Lane Stadium on Thursday, Oct. 27, to bring a pre-packaged assortment of school supplies to the event. The school-supply packages are available for $10 each only at the Christiansburg, Va. Wal-Mart store.

Fans who purchase these pre-packaged kits from the Christiansburg Wal-Mart store have the option to leave their purchase at Wal-Mart if they prefer not to take the items to the stadium. Fans who choose to deliver school supplies to the stadium prior to the game can drop off the packages at any of seven collection points outside each main entrance.

Contributors unable to attend the game can participate by making monetary contributions on-line at or by purchasing school supply packages at the Christiansburg Wal-Mart store from Oct. 22 through Nov. 5. School supply kits purchased during this time may be left at the designated drop-off point inside the store.

While it is preferred that contributors purchase the pre-packaged supplies provided by Wal-Mart to expedite handling, packing, and shipping, individual contributions of new school items will also be welcome. Supplies most needed include writing pads and notebooks (without metal binders), pens and pencils, and basic art materials. A complete list of preferred items can be found at the website.

Following the collection effort, the packaged supplies will be boxed and palletized for shipment overseas, with the assistance of Spirit of America, volunteers from the Corps of Cadets, School of Education, and the Virginia Tech Alumni Association.

Army Major Mark Sherkey, a 1995 Virginia Tech and Corps of Cadets alumnus, initiated "Operation Provide Classroom Comfort." Sherkey commanded a field artillery battery with the 101st Airborne Division in Mosul, Iraq, in 2003-04. During his tour, Sherkey’s unit assisted with repairing and rebuilding the infrastructure of Mosul's damaged school system when they were not engaged in combat operations.

When word of this civil action effort spread—largely due to exposure via the Internet and the assistance of a Middle Tennessee Alumni Chapter—the American public responded with enormous generosity, donating hundreds of packages for Iraqi children. As a result, both the Iraqis and U.S. forces forged a stronger cooperative relationship.

Now assigned at the Pentagon in the Office of the Secretary of Defense, Sherkey remains convinced the value that this and other "hearts and minds" programs are having on the stability in the region. He is determined to see this new phase be a successful continuation of the original concept with the help of his alma mater and the efforts of the Virginia Tech Iraqi Outreach Committee.

Virginia Tech partners involved in the project include the Corps of Cadets, the School of Education, the Virginia Tech Alumni Association, and University Relations—all working with the cooperation and assistance of Virginia Tech Athletics Director Jim Weaver, Head Football Coach Frank Beamer, the Athletics Department, and the Hokie football team.

"Education is important to all people, regardless of where they live," Coach Beamer said in endorsing the effort. "This is an important program that I believe in, and I encourage our fans to support it however they can."