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Ridgewood Teens Launch Multi-City Fundraiser to Aid Kids of Military Families

The "ALIVE Heroes Challenge" kicks off in Ridgewood Friday, with students selling bracelets to benefit the Bob Woodruff Foundation. Woodruff will be at Ridgewood High School Friday to promote the initiative.

Ridgewood High School students Lindsay Testa and Aidan Trevisan have been waiting for months for Friday's events to unfold. Friday marks the first official day of a fund-raising challenge they enacted to raise money for military families affected by war. 

The ALIVE Heroes Challenge will sell bracelets with the names, ranks and military branches of soldiers wounded in Iraq or Afghanistan. All of the proceeds will go to the Bob Woodruff Foundation to support military children.

Woodruff, an award-winning television reporter co-founded the organization after suffering a traumatic brain injury in 2006 in a roadside bomb explosion in Iraq. After a long and arduous recovery he has dedicated himself to raising money to support injured service members, veterans and their families. Woodruff will speak at the high school on Friday to kick off the start of the challenge. 

Raising money for those who have been injured through military service should be an easy task. But often it's not.

In a technocratic society where both real and fictional images of strife and violence are delivered to the public on a daily basis, compelling a community to contribute to the support of those who have been injured in war has become an ever greater challenge.

According to some experts, with a decade of news coverage on two separate wars, there has developed a sense of desensitization to the needs of military survivors.

Over 49,000 service members have been physically wounded, and one in five veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan suffer from Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), traumatic brain injury (TBI) and/or depression.

The New York Times recently reported that the rate of suicide amongst military personnel and combat veterans has risen sharply since 2005 and has actually spiked this year, with deaths from suicide beginning to outnumber those from battle. 

Many organizations have used rubber bracelets as a symbol of support for a cause but bracelets worn in support of soldiers actually dates back to 1970. 

Aidan Trevisan was moved to action after seeing a prisoner of war (POW) bracelet her mother had from Vietnam. She teamed up with fellow student Lindsay Testa to put a twist on the traditional bracelet by putting the names of living heroes on them. Each bracelet features an “alive” date for a particular soldier. An “alive” date is the day a soldier was wounded but survived.

One of the bracelets honors U.S. Army Sgt. Mark Steppe (Ret) of Ridgewood, NJ. Steppe’s vehicle was hit with a roadside bomb upon return from a retreat in Baghdad. He continues to suffer from PTSD and a traumatic brain injury, as well as Gulf War Syndrome. He and his wife, Amy, also a veteran, currently live in Ridgewood and have two small children, Torin, 10, and Jack, 3. 

Testa and Trevisan anticipated the challenge of raising funds for their cause and decided to adopt a more creative plan. They enlisted the help of peers from neighboring Glen Rock, Wyckoff, Franklin Lakes and Oakland. The fund-raising challenge will run for one month in each of those municipalities.

The plan is to reinvigorate the project each month with another group of enthusiastic teens. Children from all schools in Ridgewood are invited to sell bracelets to their friends and neighbors with an order sheet provided on school web sites. Bracelets can also be purchased by families through the AHC site. Testa has set up a mail room in her basement for the Ridgewood leg of the challenge.

The two girls are ready to pack and ship bracelets each night. Next stop – Glen Rock. In a video on their site, the girls express their hope that the challenge will be passed across the entire U.S.

Have a question or news tip? Contact editor James Kleimann at James.Kleimann@patch.com, or find us on Facebook and Twitter. For news straight to your inbox every morning, sign up for our daily newsletter.

Dennis Martinez September 27, 2012 at 11:39 AM
We should be very proud of these teens. This is a super cause and we should all support them.
Mark Bombace September 27, 2012 at 03:32 PM
Lindsay Testa and Aidan Trevisan you are the epitome of what is great about our country. I listened to your Heroes Challenge at the VFW last year. I personally know the Steppes and many other veterans and they are in need of help like this. Jim could you please let us know how we can donate besides buying a bracelet.
Lisa Ertle September 27, 2012 at 04:09 PM
You are able to make a separate donation right on the site!
Mark Bombace September 27, 2012 at 06:39 PM
Thanks Lisa I just made a donation
Jody McCambridge September 27, 2012 at 08:19 PM
You both are fabulous in what you are doing! To bring awareness to this cause is just terrific. You have no idea just how difficult it is for these soldiers and their families. I am proud to know you and congratulate you on what you are doing. We, our family support you all the way. Jody McCambridge

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