United Way shares holiday spirit with military families

Organization surprises U.S. military veteran with Adopt-A-Family toy drive

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Dylan Howertown served two tours in Afghanistan and is also a single father.

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. - U.S. military veteran Dylan Howertown thought he was stopping by the United Way of Broward County's office Wednesday just for a meeting. Instead, he was surprised with gifts as part of the United Way's Adopt-A-Family program's holiday toy drive.

Howerton is a single father who served two tours in Afghanistan and attends the Fort Lauderdale Art Institute. The United Way gave him toys, games and over $300 in gift cards to clothing and toy stores for his daughter.

Kathleen Cannon, President and CEO of United Way of Broward County, and Nancy Vaniman, retired U.S. Navy Commander and Director of Mission United, presented Howerton with the gifts. Donations were provided by Frito Lay.

In total, 10 families were adopted by the organization's program and will be receiving donated items for the holidays. Seven of those families are a part of Mission United's veteran program.

Ora Cunningham, the mother of Anna Cunningham, a U.S. Navy petty officer currently deployed in Afghanistan, received gifts for her grandchildren. Since Anna is a single mother, Ora is now her grandchildren's caregiver.

Donations to the family included toys, games and over $200 in gift cards to various clothing stores and toy stores for the two children, who are 3 and 6-years-old. Gifts were donated by staff members from United Way of Broward County.

Anna Cunningham is serving the U.S. in Afghanistan.

United Way of Broward County and the American Red Cross have partnered to create Mission United, a community based initiative convening and aligning public and private resources in Broward County to support veterans and their families in transitioning from military service back to civilian life. Mission United's goal is to assist the more than 110,000 veterans living in Broward County. For more information, contact (954) 4-UNITED or go to www.missionunited.org.

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