A charity named after a young Middletown man who lost his life while fighting for our country says it is critically in need of donations now that COVID-19 has caused nearly a year's worth of disruption to its fundraising efforts.

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The Lt. Dennis W. Zilinski II Memorial Fund was not able to hold its typical run of fundraising events in 2020, and couldn't campaign in schools to help collect daily necessities for active military.

Since 2006, the fund has aided and assisted veterans, provided support to troops serving overseas, and helped their families. According to Marion Zilinski, Dennis's mother, the pandemic has added to the mental anguish faced by those who have served for our freedom.

"We've generally sponsored 15 service dogs a year, and last year, we could only do six," said Zilinski, the fund's secretary. "Post-traumatic stress disorder is deadly and with COVID, the need increases because they're locked up in their homes and time, sometimes, is their worst enemy."

Zilinski's son was 23 when he was killed by a roadside bomb in Iraq in 2005. The fund also provides scholarships at his alma mater, Christian Brothers Academy, as well as Trinity Hall High School in Tinton Falls, to students who "embody the leadership qualities and community spirit of Lt. Zilinski."

Even when donations of items such as deodorant and socks for active military are received, Marion Zilinski added, the fund needs to absorb shipping costs to get the goods overseas.

"Last year our postage ran $8,900 just to mail out the boxes," she said.

Monetary donations can be made at runwithdennis.org or mailed to Lt. Dennis W. Zilinski, II Memorial Fund, P.O. Box 124, Adelphia, NJ 07710.

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