Few 19-year-olds understand sacrifice the way Kaylee Marie Radzyminski does.
The Tennessee Tech sophomore decided when she was 14 that if soldiers overseas were fighting for her freedom, she had to do something in return.
"If [soldiers] can sacrifice their lives and time with their family, why can't I sacrifice a little for them, too?" she asks.
For that reason, Radzyminski started Tunes 4 the Troops, a $2 million-a-year charity that sends CDs and DVDs to U.S. troops. Since its inception, Tunes 4 the Troops has sent more than 750,000 entertainment items to soldiers, a feat that earned Radzyminski nationwide recognition and the Chattanooga-area September Jefferson Award.
The Jefferson Awards recognize outstanding work in community service and volunteering. Regional winners are selected each month, one of whom will be sent to an awards ceremony in Washington, D.C., with a chance to win the national award.
HOW TO HELP
Financial donations, DVDs or CDs can be sent to:
or online at www.tunes4thetroops.com
ABOUT THE AWARDS
The Jefferson Awards were restarted locally in May by the Chattanooga Times Free Press, WRCB-TV and First Tennessee Bank.
Monthly award nominations will be taken until March 2011, when a local committee will select five honorees whose stories will be submitted to award officials in Washington, D.C. One of the award winners will be chosen to represent Chattanooga in the nation's capital for the national Jefferson Awards banquet.
Since 1972, the awards have been presented on the local and national levels. Each year, a national winner is selected in four categories: elected or public officials, private citizens, people benefiting the disadvantaged and individuals 35 or younger.
HOW TO NOMINATE
P.O. Box 1447
Chattanooga, TN 37401
Those who know Radzyminski were not surprised that her selflessness has landed her a place in the national discussion of young leaders.
U.S. Rep. Zach Wamp, R-Tenn., who has known Radzyminski for 16 years, said she "goes around spreading the salt and the light to the world."
"Tunes 4 the Troops was just another step in a life that's about giving to others," Wamp said. "I think that's what the Jefferson Award is all about."
When Radzyminski was 14, she met several soldiers returning home from war who said they missed having entertainment while serving. That prompted her to launch Tunes 4 the Troops, she said.
Her motivation comes from the letters and e-mails she gets from soldiers letting her know how much her gift meant to them, she said.
Today, Radzyminski asks for donations, both of entertainment and money, for the charity. Each box she sends costs $15 and contains 150 items, all of which are paid for by Radzyminski.
The project has also grown to include more than 800 satellite locations throughout the country and one in England, according to the Tunes 4 the Troops website.
Contact Jessie Gable at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6345.