It was last year, when Ashely Modafferi, then 10-years-old, saw a commercial on television that reported the high suicide rate amongst U.S. veterans. Now she's hoping to reverse that trend by planning a veterans meet and greet whereby the Sachem community can shake hands and thank local veterans for their service.
What started out as a project to earn her Girl Scouts Bronze Award, has come to fruition: the meet and greet is scheduled for this coming Saturday, Sept. 15 at 10 a.m. at the VFW Post 400 on College Road in Farmingville.
"I saw a commercial on TV that talked about how 18 veterans in this country kill themselves every day," Modafferi stated in an email to Patch. "This made me sad. I didn't understand why people let this happen. I wanted to do something to help."
After reaching out to Post 400 and getting a committment from them to use the space, Ashley, with the help of her father, Sal Modafferi created a flyer and set to the task of spreading the word. They canvassed the streets of the, handing out the flyers and posting them online, including on . With news of the event spreading through the community it's hard to tell what the attendance will look like.
"That's the scary part," said Sal Modafferi. "Because people have run with this. Randy Altschuler posted it on his Facebook account, and he's got about 4,000 followers. Others are grabbing the ad."
To be exact, Altschuler has 3,584 likes on Facebook. Plenty to pack the VFW hall and then some. According to Sal Modafferi, the hall's maximum capacity is 65. But he hopes that people will filter in and out of the hall, meet the veterans and then make way for newcomers if need be.
"We don’t know how many people are coming," Sal said. "She was 10 when she thought of the idea and she just turned 11 in May and she’s very passionate about it. This was all on her own. This is basically her seeing that commercial and getting so upset that we allow these kids to come home and get so depressed that they kill themselves."
Ashley, a sixth-grader at , described the Bronze Award and its intentions for the what the Girl Scouts hope to accomplish.
"The bronze award is supposed to be something that makes a change in the community," she stated. "Something that lasts; something that can be ongoing and carried on by others."
Sal Modafferi said refreshments and light snacks will be served at the event. Members of the U.S. Veterans Motorcycle Club will also be on hand to collect donations for veterans hospitalized at the Northport VA.
"We especially want to get the younger vets to come out and connect with some of these [high school] kids now," Sal Modafferi said. "Kids who are only a few years younger should realize that guys who are only four or five years older than them sacrificed for them."
Patch will report when and if Ashley receives her Bronze Award.