Tunes 4 the Troops Sends Millionth Gift Overseas, As Girl Who Started It Is Now a Soldier Herself

Kaylee Marie Radzyminski is not your typical college junior.

The spunky 19-year-old is attending Tennessee Technological University on a full Army ROTC scholarship; she is a sister in the Alpha Delta Pi sorority; and she is studying geographic information systems with a minor in military science. When she graduates in 2013, she will commission as a second lieutenant in the United States Army.

But Radzyminski's impressive achievements are still not the most remarkable things about her. It’s her commitment to a charity, Tunes 4 the Troops, which she founded when she was just 15, that make her stand out from the crowd even more.

In 2005, Radzyminski was enrolled by the Sea Cadets, spending the summer on a naval base in Pensacola, Fla., where she got the chance to meet people who served in different branches of the military.

“One of the questions I asked them was, ‘What do you miss from home?’ and their first answer, of course, was ‘family,’ but the second most popular answer was ‘entertainment,’” Radzyminski told

“In many cases, they didn’t think to bring any music when they were sent overseas. If they did bring something, they would get sick of it after listening to it over and over again. I do come from a military family, so hearing that really touched my heart.”

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Inspired, Radzyminski took a second look at her own CD collection when she returned home to Cleveland, Tenn., that fall.

“I told my mom that I wanted to send some of my old CDs overseas to the troops,” Radzyminski said. “I had Britney Spears, Spice Girls, Ricky Martin -- a pretty teen collection of music.”

Her mother was not entirely convinced of her daughter’s conviction. “I said, ‘Sure, whatever,’ never thinking anything would ever come of it,” Stephanie E. Radzyminski told exclusively. “I thought it would be a one-time thing.”

Mom was wrong.

“I had about 50 CDs on my own, but then my friends gave me some of their CDs. From there, it quickly spread to my school,” Radzyminski explained. “By Thanksgiving 2005, we had collected about 400 items. Our first box went overseas in March of 2006. At first, it was all word of mouth, then there were a few news stories and then it caught on like wildfire.”

“Our home became overrun with CDs and DVDs,” said Radzyminski’s mother. “The bedroom was filled, the living room was filled, and Kaylee Marie had to sleep on the living room sofa.”

“It got kind of overwhelming,” admitted Radzyminski. “It was kind of hard to organize 2000 CDs. There were CDs everywhere -- even on the patio! At one point, we had Home Depot donate a storage shed so that we could have somewhere to keep all of the CDs and DVDs. That solved the problem–temporarily -- but pretty soon, the shed was full. It was hard to keep up; the minute we would ship packages out, new donations would come in.”

Five years later, Tunes 4 the Troops has shipped over one million CDs and DVDs to soldiers serving overseas.

“Reaching a million CDs was a goal that I had for so long, when we finally reached it, it was kind of a relief,” Radzyminski said. “It was so wonderful to finally meet that goal.”

Mark Matejka from Lynyrd Skynyrd helped Radzyminski pack and ship her milestone CD. “He came for one of our packing parties back in April,” Radzyminski said. “He ended up donating our one millionth CD and he even signed it -- it was really neat!”

Now, with the holidays fast approaching, Tunes 4 the Troops needs more music and movies, “A lot of the guys don’t get packages when they’re stationed overseas, which is really sad,” said Radzyminski. “Sending a CD or DVD is a small gesture that means so much for the troops who sacrifice so much for us. They really appreciate it, especially this time of year. It’ll help boost their morale and help get their mind off of things during the holiday season.” 

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“Sometimes, a package from Tunes 4 the Troops w will be the only thing that soldiers receive from home while stationed overseas,” Radzyminski’s mother says. “Some of the units are so far-flung that packages have to be dropped from helicopters in parachutes. And a lot of these young people who are serving just don’t have any family -- they don’t get letters, cards -- anything. So when these boxes come in, and they get a handful of CDs or DVDs, it’s the coolest thing for them.”

The troops serving overseas could also use handheld electronic games and iTunes gift cards. “We get a lot of requests for game systems, MP3 players–anything that will help them get their mind off of things and help them relax,” said Radzyminski.

Soothing music you might hear at a spa is also a big hit with the troops. “They love new age music in the hospitals,” noted Radzyminski’s mother. “They’ll also play it at night, because it helps people to relax.”

In addition to new age music, other favorite genres include jazz, oldies and heavy metal. “They’ll blare it from their Humvees when they’re heading into battle,” Radzyminksi’s mom said. “Rush, Black Sabbath -- any kind of hard rock.”

But even if you can’t collect tunes in time for the holidays, the troops still need music year ’round. “The last day to ship overseas for Christmas is Dec. 15 -- but you have to remember, even if it shows up a week or two later, it’s not going to make any difference to them,” Radzyminski’s she said. “It means a lot to them, no matter what time of year. We’ll take old PlayStations, hand-held videogames, people’s old iPods -- the only catch is that we need all of the earbuds and cords to go with the MP3 players.”

Reflecting on her accomplishments, Radzyminski remains humble. “When you think about it . . . at least one million people were impacted by Tunes 4 the Troops. t’s pretty amazing,” she said. “The troops do so much for us, why can’t we do just a little bit to give back to them.”

Meanwhile, Radzyminski’s mother is justifiably proud of her offspring. “This is not a person who  sits back and watches life,” she says. “Kaylee is a person who goes out there and makes things happen. As a parent, I couldn’t be more proud.”

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