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Food for Trees, the brainchild of Vincent D’Avena, owner of AV Remodeling & Construction and Intellectual Homes in McLean, wrapped up its fifth Christmas season after selling some 245 Fraser firs — twice as many as last year — and collecting $8,000 worth of food for needy residents.

D’Avena sells Christmas trees at cost and requests from each buyer a $35 donation in nonperishable food, which replenishes pantries at SHARE of McLean and McLean High School. Orders are placed in November, and trees arrive in early December.

The Dec. 7 tree pick-up took place at the Old Firehouse Teen Center in McLean and featured cookie decorating, music by members of the McLean Youth Orchestra and the McLean Orchestra, and a visit from Santa. As the afternoon wore on, the lot outside emptied of freshly cut firs, while the indoor stage filled with bags bursting with food.

“This year the event was not just about trees, or even simply donating food for those in need,” D’Avena said. “We turned the event into a place that the community can come together during the holidays. There was something for everybody.”

D’Avena’s long-range goal is to create a template that other small businesses can follow to help out their communities during the holidays.

“Most people have a good heart, but don’t know how to do it,” he said. “We make it easy for them.”

Involved in this year’s effort were the McLean Rotary, McLean Fire Department, McLean Chamber of Commerce, FoodForTrees Board of Directors, Youth Rotary … Inneract, McLean Teen Council, McLean Little League, and adult and teen volunteers.

Redskins, cancer patients tackle gingerbread houses

Tyler Polumbus, Kory Lichtensteiger and Will Montgomery traded their Washington Redskins helmets for jolly fur-trimmed Santa hats Dec. 17, when the football players brought holiday cheer — as well as gumdrops, ribbon candy, peppermint sticks and more — to children undergoing cancer treatment.

Cakes Against Cancer, a charitable organization founded by Amphora Bakery in Herndon, partnered with Tyler’s Kids Outreach and INOVA Child Life Services to host a gingerbread house decorating party for pediatric oncology patients. Polumbus is the founder of Tyler’s Kids Outreach.

Several patients and their families participated in the afternoon’s festivities at the Fairfax hospital, alongside offensive tackle Polumbus, offensive guard Lichtensteiger, and center and offensive guard Montgomery. The three Redskins players helped the children build and decorate their gingerbread houses, donated by Cakes Against Cancer and Amphora Bakery, and each constructed one of his own.

Best holiday lights in Herndon

Residents hoping to see some of the area’s best Christmas light shows can still catch the “Dress Up Herndon for the Holidays” contest winners. The Town’s Cultivating Community Committee selected the winning decorations.

• “The Magic of Christmas”: 912 Park Ave.

• “Holiday Spirit”: Grace Street (entire street).

• “The Gift Wrapped House”: 126 Pearl St.

• “Contemporary Lights”: 1001 Pembrook St.

• “Bright White Lights”: 705 Bennett St.

• “Whimsical”: 1326 Summerfield Drive.

• “Most Unique”: 835 Spring Knoll Drive.

HHS cadets head to national championship

Herndon High’s Navy Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps secured an overall fourth-place finish in the highly competitive Area Five Orienteering Championship earlier this month, in their pursuit of the February 2014 Orienteering National Championship. The Herndon NJROTC ran against 21 other schools from Virginia, Maryland and Washington, D.C.

The varsity team placed fourth out of 19 teams, the junior varsity teams placed sixth and eighth out of 30, and the intermediate teams placed 11th and 12th out of 30. Wilfredo Bautista earned the individual gold medal at the junior varsity level, where he outmaneuvered more than 100 competitors. Zack Tershak, Marshall Wilkins and Travis Langtry finished 11th, 12th and 20th, respectively, against a field of 85 varsity team members.

“With these finishes, we are very excited about our prospects for Nationals in February,” said coach Clay Wilkins.

Military salutes

• Air Force Airmen Destinee Vickers, Abdul Fares, Felipe Castro, Airman Sergio Espinoza, William Luster and Danny Guerrero, Air Force Airmen 1st Class Brandon Hasegawa, Patrick Bass and Zade Vadnais, Air National Guard Airmen Andy Nguyen and Darby Arnold have graduated from basic military training at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, San Antonio, Texas.

Airmen who complete basic training earn four credits toward an associate in applied science degree through the Community College of the Air Force.

Vickers, daughter of Karen Vickers of Springfield and niece of Dedra West of Cleveland, Ga., is a 2010 graduate of West Forsyth High School in Cumming, Ga.

Fares, son of Cristina and Cedric Reed of Annandale, is a 2012 graduate of Annandale High School.

Castro, son of Vilma Castro of Lorton, is a 2008 graduate of Hayfield Secondary School.

Espinoza, son of Gloria Zepeda of Arlington, is a 2012 graduate of Thomas A. Edison High School.

Luster, son of Elizabeth Luster of Alexandria, is a 2010 graduate of West Potomac High School.

Guerrero, son of Julian and Marbely Guerrero of Herndon, is a 2008 graduate of Herndon High School.

Hasegawa, son of Glenn Hasegawa of Fairfax Station and Diane Hasegawa of Rancho Cordova, Calif., is a 2004 graduate of Davis Senior High School, Calif. He received an associate degree in 2012 from Sacramento City College, Calif.

Bass, son of Kimberly and Patrick Bass of Springfield, is a 2007 graduate of West Springfield High School.

Vadnais, son of Amy Vadnais of Lorton, is a 2010 graduate of Earl Warren High School, San Antonio, Texas.

Nguyen, nephew of Jennifer Huynh of Centreville, is a 1999 graduate of Falls Church High School. He earned a bachelor’s degree in 2005 from George Mason University.

Arnold, daughter of Babette and Brian Arnold of Herndon, is a 2011 graduate of Oakton High School.

Scholarships for military personnel

The Army Officers’ Wives’ Club of the Greater Washington Area offers scholarships to children and spouses of U.S. Army personnel. Funds for the scholarships are raised through the Fort Myer Thrift Shop.

Scholarships are based on merit and take into consideration the applicant’s academic qualifications, community involvement and leadership potential. Application deadline is March 28, 2014.

For eligibility criteria and application forms, visit and click on “Scholarships and Grants.” For questions about the program, email

Help with VA claims

Any veteran needing assistance with a Veterans Administration claim may contact Phil Dunn, service officer at American Legion Post 180 in Vienna. All armed forces veterans are welcome. Call Dunn at 703-938-9535 or email