Staff Photo by Dan Henry Kaylee Radzyminski, left, speaks with Missile Technician 2nd Class Jon Hassman from the USS Tennessee, during a Tunes 4 the Troops drive at Best Buy in Chattanooga on Saturday.
Although Memorial Day has passed and the Fourth of July still is weeks away, the patriotic fever is alive in Chattanooga.
A crowd of people, including Sea Cadets, volunteers and Navy personnel from the USS Tennessee, gathered Saturday outside Best Buy on Gunbarrel Road to help bring in donations for Tunes 4 the Troops.
Kaylee Marie Radzyminski, 17, a recent graduate of Cleveland High School, started Tunes 4 the Troops in 2005.
“We collect CDs, DVDs and books on CDs for the troops overseas,” she said.
Miss Radzyminski said those involved with the program, which has garnered national attention over the years, have sent about 500,000 items to deployed military personnel.
Her goal is to deliver 750,000 items overseas by 2010.
“The more stuff that we get in, the more we can send overseas and in turn give back to them when they’ve given so much to us,” she said.
The donation drive is just one of many events going on in celebration of Navy Week, which is taking place in 20 other cities across the U.S. as well.
Lt. Ron Carpinella said the main goal behind Navy Week is to bring information about the Navy to middle America.
“On the coast, we have a lot of exposure with the ships coming in and out, but a lot of our sailors and officers actually come from middle America,” he said.
Lt. Carpinella also said Miss Radzyminski’s organization brings a lot of much needed relief to those deployed overseas.
“Music and movies are your degrees of sanity,” he said. “They really make (things) a little more comfortable in the conditions that you’re in.”
Kaylee’s mother, Stephanie Radzyminski, said that when her daughter first began Tunes 4 the Troops, the work took a grueling 35 hours per week.
Now that more people are behind the effort, the organization and planning have gotten a lot smoother.
“There’s everything involved from coordinating the e-mails from the troops that are making requests to coordinating with the people that are actually sending the donations in from all over the country, including Canada,” Stephanie Radzyminski said.
Kaylee Radzyminski and others involved with the program also are responsible for packing boxes, shipping them overseas and filling out the custom forms.
“Basically $2 million dollars a year worth of CDs and DVDs go in through our house and out through our house,” Stephanie Radzyminski said. “How many adults can handle that kind of inventory? And here she is, 17 years old, and she’s able to do that.”
The Navy Band Mid-South performed live at the event as well, gearing up for their later performance last night on the Unum Stage at Riverbend.