Socks for Soldiers club makes one final push for donations in Wilton

WILTON — The goal is 1,000.

At least, that number is typically the milestone to reach for Socks for Soldiers, a club at Wilton High School that collects pairs of socks for military veterans and is overseen by club advisor Dann Pompa.

Despite the unpredictable academic year that the COVID-19 pandemic has brought, Pompa and his program coordinators, senior Roenn Crameri and juniors Eli Ackerman and Tyler Casey, have been busy at work collecting socks through three separate drives. Now, in the midst of their fourth and final sock drive ending on April 14, the boys and their advisor are hoping to up the ante one last time, and urge the students and their families in the district to donate as much as they can.

Started over a decade ago, Pompa had a simple goal in mind: Provide relief to those who provided service for their country. He was awarded with the Americanism Award by Wilton’s American Legion Post 86 last year for his work with veterans.

At the end of each drive, the club sends packages of new socks to Bridgeport-based Homes for the Brave, a nonprofit dedicated to providing housing and services such as case management, life skills, vocational services, computer classes and mental health services to veterans.

“A good friend of mine in sophomore year told me that if I need a club to join, to try Socks for Soldiers and that I wouldn’t regret it,” Crameri said. “I saw what they did as a whole, how they contribute and help and not just Wilton, but make an impact by collecting for places like Georgia and other states and even overseas. It just spoke to me. It seemed so simple, to just donate socks and even that could really help.”

While Crameri joined the service organization his sophomore year, fellow program coordinators Casey and Ackerman joined in their freshman years.

“I was drawn to it because of Pompa, but honoring veterans through the assemblies we host or our drives, I felt like that was an honorable and commendable thing,” Casey said.

Casey said it felt like a miniscule way to help at first. Ackerman concurred, saying although collecting socks seemed trivial to him at first, he has felt an impact through the responses from veterans who utilize the donations.

“They send handwritten letters, but they also send photos too,” Casey explained. “That is a big factor in how they express how much they appreciate it.”

Casey said one of his uncles has served in the military. Both of Ackerman’s grandfathers served as well.

“That gave me an appreciation for veterans,” Ackerman said. “But I didn’t know socks could make such a difference.”

Over their time working in the club with Pompa, the trio has helped package thousands of socks for veterans. Each said that this club was one of their favorite extracurricular activities.

Now, the three students are busy tallying the final shipments from around the different schools in the district. They are, however, pushing for more socks to be donated in the final days before the drive’s deadline.

“We just got a big shipment in from Cider Mill. They are usually a big contributor,” Crameri said before giving the rest of the Wilton Public School community a call to action. “When you go to Walmart, or a clothing store, typically they have a whole section of just socks. When at the store and going through your grocery list, it will just take two minutes out of your day to buy and donate a pack of socks.”

The collection boxes currently sit outside of Pompa’s office on the school’s second floor. To make donating easier and attract more drop-offs, the trio suggested another collection box be placed in the lobby of the high school, just inside the front doors, so that parents and students can easily plan a date and time to swing by the school and drop off a pile of socks.

Along with 15 other group members, Ackerman, Crameri and Casey will be packing up boxes and tying up bags of socks on April 15 to ship to Homes for the Brave. As they reflect on a year unlike any other, they were steadfast in their focus on service.

“This posed yet another challenge for us, but once we overcame it, it was very rewarding,” Casey said. “In terms of seeing our hard work pay off, this is even better than last year.”