McHENRY – When 10-year-old Presley Diakow heard that the McHenry Veterans of Foreign Wars was short turkeys for its annual Thanksgiving dinner for sailors, he knew something had to be done.
The McHenry resident decided to collect the holiday staple, and the project snowballed into something bigger than the handful of donations he envisioned.
Through an outpouring of support from family, friends and classmates, Presley has pulled in 70 turkeys and 12 hams, as well as corn, green beans, salad dressings and pies for more than 200 sailors from Naval Station Great Lakes who will call the local VFW hall in McHenry home Thanksgiving Day.
“I didn’t want the sailors to have to eat hot dogs and hamburgers for Thanksgiving,” the fifth-grader from Chauncey H. Duker School said. “Most of them don’t get to see their families during the holidays. This was a way to make them feel at home.”
The effort began with a Facebook post by the boy’s mother, Katie Diakow.
That resulted in several donations before some classrooms at McHenry School District 15 decided to either donate or pick the effort up as a service project.
Neighbors and friends also pitched in.
“We were literally just trying to ease the burden for the VFW so they didn’t have to pull money out of their own pockets,” Katie Diakow said. “It started as a little pipe dream my son had and turned in to something so special. The people have been great.”
The Combined Veterans group – McHenry VFW Post 4600, Polish Legion of American Veterans Post 188 and McHenry American Legion Post 421 – team up each year to host the sailors. That includes seeking donations and volunteers.
Officials from the group were worried they would not have enough food to feed the sailors after several of their traditional suppliers had to cut back.
“When the community comes out and delivers like this, especially a youngster like Presley [Diakow], it has to be recognized,” McHenry VFW Post 4600 Commander Ron Reber said. “We are all very impressed by this.”
The event is also special for the sailors involved.
“Once they get here there is a crowd of people with flags waving, thanking them for their service,” Reber said. “They are in for a good meal and will be treated right.”
Adding to this year’s festivities will be a traveling statue depicting “The Kiss,” a photo taken Aug. 14, 1945, the day Japan surrendered to end World War II, when a sailor and nurse locked lips in Times Square.
“It’s going to bridge the gap between World War II and the present-day sailor,” Reber said.