A 12-year-old boy from Plainville is sending a message that you're never too young to give back.
From a young age, Michael Ahern has wanted to support the nation's veterans. So at eight years old, he founded Scoops for Troops, a fundraiser that helps injured, post 9/11 vets and their families heal.
Ahern was inspired to do something after a conversation he had with a recovering veteran at a Fourth of July event in Maine. Instead of receiving presents on his eighth birthday, he told his parents he wanted to raise money for veteran families.
"He just really inspired me to do something nice for them," Ahern said.
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His parents embraced the idea. Ahern started by raising $400 to buy ice cream for children of veterans who participate in the Travis Mills Foundation, a retreat center in Maine that open in 2017.
"This is a healing retreat. Moms and dads who have lost limbs, spinal injuries," said Ahern's mother, Rebecca Karabin-Ahern.
Quickly, her son's fundraising efforts grew.
"Michael asked, 'How many families can you host in a week? Well, we host 8 families. And Michael said, 'And how much does that cost?' And they said, 'Well, all-expenses paid, that'll be $30,000.' Michael closed the brochure and said, "I'm going to raise $30,000," Karabin-Ahern said.
By November 2019, Ahern exceeded his goal, raising $31,733 with the help of a $10,000 matched gift from Bogies for our Brave. The rest came from multiple fundraisers. He and his family hosted their Miles for Mills 5K, Swim-A-Thons and Scoops for Troops.
Once COVID-19 calmed down, eight families from around the country - Utah, West Virgina, Oklahoma and Texas -- were given a free week stay at the retreat.
"They were smiling. They were talking about how great of a job I was doing, and it just inspired me more," Ahern said.
Michael now wants to raise $500,000 before he goes to college. So far, he's raised more than $55,000 towards this goal. At the same time, he is working on raising another $30,000 to send eight more families to the Travis Mills retreat in August.
He said he is hoping to meet his goal at his Swim-A-Thon event in July, the same month that he'll be Charleston, South Carolina to accept the 2022 Citizens Award for Youth Service by the Congressional Medal of Honor Society.
“Memorial Day is an opportunity to honor and remember the men and women who lost their lives in service to our nation as part of the Armed Forces. Yet Medal of Honor recipients believe that the concepts of service and sacrifice are relevant to all Americans, which is why they created the Citizens Honors Awards 15 years ago to shine a spotlight on citizens like Michael Ahern for the sacrifices they have made and the service they have carried out on behalf of others," said Kathleen Blomquist, regional spokesperson for the Congressional Medal of Honor Society.
This Memorial Day Weekend, Ahern will be traveling with his family to Maine to host his Miles for Mills 5K Sunday. Then on Monday, he'll be Junior Grand Marshall in the Plainville Memorial Day Parade.
"Inside he's so determined to help our veterans and do...do good," Karabin-Ahern said.