November 07, 2012 - Evan Kussner believes everybody should get some candy for Halloween, especially soldiers fighting in far-off lands where there is no trick-or-treating.
Posing with a fraction of the candy they’ve collected are (from left) Daniel Axford kindergartner Ethan Kussner, DA teacher Michelle Kussner and Oxford Elementary third-grader Evan Kussner. Photo by C.J. Carnacchio. (click for larger version)
"They need good days like we have," he said.
That's why the Oxford Elementary third-grader launched a candy drive at his school whereby students are being encouraged to bring in their "spare" Halloween treats, so they can be mailed to U.S. troops serving in Afghanistan.
His brother, Ethan Kussner, a kindergartner at Daniel Axford Elementary, is doing one at his school as well.
The drives began Nov. 1 and will continue through Nov. 8. The brothers made posters advertising the drives and put collection bags in all the classrooms. As of Monday, the Kussner brothers had already collected between 243 and 324 pounds of candy – that's an estimate based on 81 one-gallon bags, each weighing between 3 and 4 pounds.
"I didn't think we were going to get that much," Evan said. "I thought we'd get maybe 500 pieces. I'm really surprised."
"People are graciously sending in full bags of candy that they didn't hand out because Halloween was cold and rainy," said Michelle Kussner, mother of Evan and Ethan, and a first-grade teacher at Daniel Axford. "I'm overwhelmed by the sheer amount of support that the schools have given to us."
All of the candy will be mailed to U.S. Army First Lieutenant Jake Della Pia and his unit in Afghanistan. The Kussner family owns a cottage in Manistee and Della Pia is the son of their neighbors in the northwestern Michigan community.
"Jake means a lot to me," Evan said. "He's like part of my family. He's battling for our freedom in Afghanistan and he's keeping us safe."
Evan was motivated to collect candy for the troops by his grandfather Doug Green, of Oxford. Green told Evan a story about how much it meant to him to receive candy in the mail when he served in the Vietnam War in 1970.
"I decided since I know someone battling for our country in Afghanistan, I thought we could give him candy like they did for my grandpa in Vietnam," he said.
"I'm overwhelmed that an 8-year-old would come up with such a grand idea," Michelle said. "It's very caring and what you want to see in children."
Once all the candy's been collected, the Kussners are planning to ship it. Given the massive amount, the family is seeking donations to help pay the postage, which is going to be much greater than originally anticipated.
Folks interested in donating toward the postage costs can write a check to Michelle Kussner and mail it to Daniel Axford Elementary, 74 Mechanic St., Oxford, MI 48371.
The Kussners are not seeking any candy donations from the general public.
CJ Carnacchio is editor for The Oxford Leader. He lives in the Village of Oxford with his wife Connie and daughter Larissa. When he's not busy working on the newspaper, he enjoys cigars/pipes, Martinis/Scotch, hunting and fishing.