Ann Arbor boy raises $1,300 for Operation Injured Soldiers, gets invitation to White House
Sonia Gottfried isn’t sure what precipitated her son, Giuseppe, to approach her with the idea.
She recalls him toddling up to her after watching television and saying he wanted to help injured soldiers. At the time, his sixth birthday was near, so Giuseppe decided to forgo his presents, ask for donations and collect money for those injured.
Jane Purslow photo | Courtesy of Operation Injured Soldiers
“He must have been watching some show when he came up to me and said he didn’t want any more presents,” Gottfried said. “He said he wanted to give them to the Army people getting hurt.”
Giuseppe’s desire to help soldiers compelled him to raise $1,300 in two years for a nonprofit organization, Operation Injured Soldiers, based in South Lyon.
Giuseppe’s generosity stunned administrators with Operation Injured Soldiers and earned him recognition from a state official in Washington, D.C. Rep. Mark Schauer arranged for Giuseppe and his family to have a personal tour of the White House in November.
“The kindness and generosity of this young man is something we can all learn from,” Schauer said in a statement. “The sacrifices made by servicemen and women for our country can never fully be repaid.
“Giuseppe’s selflessness on their behalf is a wonderful example of how we can support our veterans when they return home, and I commend him for his efforts.”
Giuseppe, his parents, his two younger brothers, grandmother and cousins are planning their trip to Washington, D.C. A member of Schauer's staff will lead the tour.
"He's pretty excited," said Giuseppe's father, Andy Gottfried. "He thinks it's really great. I'm not sure he understands the magnitude of it."
Giuseppe began by asking for donations in lieu of birthday presents, but he expanded his mission by asking for donations in downtown Saline and after church.
Sonia Gottfried can't believe all the attention her son has received.
“We don’t know where he came up with (the idea),” she said. “We asked him time and time again why, and he says he just wants to take care of Army people that come home hurt.”
Giuseppe’s relationship with Operation Injured Soldiers began with his mom searching online for nonprofit organizations that benefit the military. She was amazed to find Operation Injured Soldiers was so close to their Ann Arbor home.
The organization helps physically and emotionally disabled soldiers return to their civilian life through recreational activities they enjoy. Donations to OIS have funded fishing or hunting trips, tickets to sporting events or transportation or lodging for veterans traveling long distances.
“He’s a special kid,” said Pam Bijansky, spokeswoman with Operation Injured Soldiers. “When his mom told us he wanted to donate money, it went through the whole organization like wildfire.”
Members of OIS were so touched by Giuseppe’s act that some showed up for his sixth birthday party last year. This year, he was a special guest for the organization’s annual motorcycle rally and picnic.
“They have made his efforts worth it,” Sonia Gottfried said. “It was going to be one year, but they made such a big deal out of it I don’t think he’s ever going to stop.”
To donate to Giuseppe's cause, visit the family's website. Donations are accepted through PayPal.
Brian Vernellis is a reporter for AnnArbor.com. He can be reached at 734-623-4617 or firstname.lastname@example.org.