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Group donates to Flying Ospreys

UNF’s own trampoline-jumping mascot Ozzie the Osprey might have gotten his courage from a connection with the Marines, as it turns out.

Health Administration Director Doreen Perez is spearheading a donation drive for a group of Marines that were deployed to Iraq early September.

The drive, known as Ospreys for Flying Ospreys, is raising support for the VMM-266 Third Osprey Squadron.

She got the idea from her son, Mark Perez, a retired Marine who informed her of the link between the squadron’s plane and name to UNF’s mascot, she said.

“The connections he made was the fact that they fly the osprey and that that’s our mascot, and he thought people would be interested, and they really have been,” Perez said. “It’s a nice connection to make.” 

The third osprey squadron transports personnel and supplies in the V-22 Osprey aircraft, which can be described as an altered helicopter.

“Their aircraft lifts up like a helicopter and then the propellers go back and they shoot [forward,]” Perez said. “They’re like a bat out of hell. They get in and they get out really fast and people don’t even see them coming.”

The squadron was deployed from Jacksonville, North Carolina, which Perez said was just one coincidence of many that associated the VMM-266 squadron with UNF.

The president of the university support association (USPA), Kathy Westburry, was one of the first people Perez asked for help, she said. Westburry has been making efforts to get the word  out to faculty, staff and students ever since.

“I send out these mass e-mails to all these people and let them know what we’ve got going on and ask them to participate,” Westburry said. “I just make sure the word gets out there. I’ve got the networking to be able to do that.”

Westburry sent information to campus and student updates, faculty and staff at the A&P Association and USPA, and veterans who will be attending UNF’s Veteran’s Day events. While Westburry was busy letting people know about the donation opportunities, Perez was giving out fliers, setting up donation boxes in four separate locations on campus and making a deal with the UNF Bookstore to give a 20 percent discount toward any purchase made for the squadron, Perez said.

“We want to get as many people involved as possible which is why we’re trying to get our hands into every group,” Westburry said.

Items like T-shirts, Ozzie plushies, pennants, candies, snacks, cookies, cards, letters and more will be accepted in any of the donation boxes, Westburry said.

“Our goal is to get 160 T-shirts for them [since there are about 160 marines in the squadron,]” Westburry said. “[Students] may not feel like they have the money to buy a T-shirt. They could send them cards and pennants [instead.]”

Even a nice letter or note to put in the boxes would be nice, and is free to anyone who wishes to do so, Perez said.

“I think this is a way to actually be able to put a smile on somebody’s face,” Perez said. “They can wear the T-shirts and the hats and eat the goodies and feel like they’re home for the holidays.”

E-mail Rebecca McKinnon at [email protected].

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