Manny Ferrero of Miami keeps alive the memory of his younger brother Marius with help from family and friends through fundraisers and charity donations.
U.S. Army Pfc. Marius “Mario” Ferrero, 23, of Miami, was killed in Baqubah, Iraq, on Nov. 18, 2007, on a goodwill mission to deliver toys to Iraqi children.
Along with seven children and two other soldiers, he was killed by an explosive device carried by a suicide bomber.
After his death, his brother gathered friends and family to start Mario’s Soldiers, a local charity and fundraising initiative to help underprivileged children.
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“We want to keep his legacy by helping children that are less fortunate, people that are in need,” Ferrero said.
Mario’s Soldiers’ next fundraiser is a charity golf tournament Oct. 25 at the Doral Golf Resort and Spa.
“Sports are a way for people to enjoy themselves,” said Pablo Lau, 29, treasurer. “People not only donate but also have fun.”
The organization is a way to continue what Mario Ferrero considered to be his mission in Operation Iraqi Freedom : to help all individuals, members said.
“He’s not physically here with us, but here in spirit,” Lau said.“We tried to find the best way to honor his belief.”
Mario’s Soldiers is in the midst of a six-month charity drive that began on Memorial Day and will run through Veteran’s Day, Nov. 11.
Members collect toys, food and clothing throughout Miami at various drop-off locations and offer to pick up donations free of charge.
In a partnership with Ronald McDonald House Charities, Camillus House and the Veteran Affairs Hospital, the organization delivers the toys to hospitalized children, feeds the homeless and clothes disabled veterans.
Ferrero’s cousin, Ernest Ajo, 24, became affiliated with the group through its softball league.
“Our softball tournaments include teams of about 12 players,” he said. “We receive a lot of donations and a lot of people come out.”
Members are focused on the number of men, women, children and veterans they can help.
“Everyday people are so worried about themselves. We need to step out of one problem and look at the world as whole,” Lau said. Manny Ferrero anticipates the project’s long-term growth.
“I want to help people not only in Miami, but branch out worldwide and eventually go back to the place in Baqubah, Iraq, and try to help some of the children in that town,” Ferrero said.