Faces of Christmas: Rylee Spray

December 24, 2013 

The basics: Rylee Spray, 11, is a sixth-grader at Fancher Creek Elementary School in southeast Fresno.

What she does: Rylee puts together care packages and sends them to troops and their dogs in Afghanistan, with items for both the dogs and their handlers. Rylee also took the initiative to get her school involved by asking her classmates to write letters to the troops and make donations.

Why she does it: "It is during the holidays and I thought it would be a nice thing to do," Rylee said. "They are in the war fighting and protecting our country, and we should repay them."

The turning point: Rylee said that her mom Rachel came across a page on Facebook called "Military Working Dogs" that provides people with addresses to send care packages to. "She asked me if I wanted to do it, and I said yes," Rylee said. "I have always loved helping people because a lot of people help me. I was really excited."

Details, details: "Military Working Dogs" is one of various pages on Facebook that sends out lists of addresses and items that people can send to the troops and their dogs. The care packages include food, toiletries, books, dog toys and grooming tools. The purpose of the page is to make people more aware of military working dogs and their handlers, and to show them support. The page also posts videos, photos and stories of military working dog teams all over the world.

What others say: "She is absolutely an inspiration," Rylee's sixth-grade teacher Emily Zabzdyr said. "She is getting the kids to think about how else they can help out around the community, and ways that we can donate this time of year for our community in particular, not just the soldiers in Afghanistan, so we are taking that concept of the service project and we are expanding it because of Rylee."

How you can help: Anyone wishing to donate items to the project can call the main office at Fancher Creek Elementary, (559) 327-6700, or contact Rachel Spray by email, rachelspray@hotmail.com. Anyone interested in sending care packages on their own may visit the Military Working Dogs Facebook page for more information.

-- Angela Sasaki

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