Jackson Bentham, 11, of Las Vegas, Nev., a sixth-grader at Somerset Academy Lone Mountain, conducted a food and toiletry drive at his school to benefit service members returning from combat, and then held a raffle that raised funds to buy toilet paper for veterans in need. With Nellis Air Force Base near his hometown, Jackson said he is accustomed to seeing veterans in his community. But an encounter last August with one vet really made him sad. He was standing in 115-degree heat outside a gas station when Jackson offered him bottled water and a wet wash cloth. “He was very kind,” said Jackson. “He told me he had a kid and a family but lost everything once he returned from Afghanistan.” Jackson knew he wanted to help, not only this man, but others, too. “I hurt to think about veterans losing their dignity to beg when they’ve risked their life for our freedom,” he said.
Jackson contacted a local American Legion post to find out what items veterans needed most. He then got his principal’s permission to run a five-day food and toiletry drive at his school, as well as a fundraising raffle at an annual Halloween party. Then he recruited volunteers to help him make signs and figure out the details, and used his own allowance to pay for fliers to send home with students. Jackson also made a video and posted it on Facebook. His food and toiletry drive collected 358 items, while the raffle raised $800, which he used to buy 2,000 rolls of toilet paper, the item the American Legion advised was most in demand. The items were donated to local organizations that help veterans in crisis and provide housing for those receiving medical treatment. “My efforts are a drop in the sea of what needs to be done to help our local veterans,” said Jackson. “There are hundreds and hundreds in need of basic help and supplies.”