Local online retailer launches ‘Showers for Soldiers’

By: Robin Ruehlen | West Bloomfield Beacon | Published August 7, 2013

 Staff Sgt. Christopher McAleer, currently stationed in Kabul, Afghanistan, is shown here with his daughter. McAleer’s father asked Summit Sports to help improve the quality of life of soldiers with a donation of solar showers.

Staff Sgt. Christopher McAleer, currently stationed in Kabul, Afghanistan, is shown here with his daughter. McAleer’s father asked Summit Sports to help improve the quality of life of soldiers with a donation of solar showers.

Photo courtesy of Steve Sapienza

Advertisement

WALLED LAKE — Of all the comforts of home that overseas troops miss, a warm, clean shower ranks high on the list.

So when Steve Sapienza learned from his son, Staff Sgt. Christopher McAleer, that his unit, stationed in Kabul, Afghanistan, was experiencing water-quality problems, he immediately began searching for ways to help.

“He told me that when the power goes on their base, it causes breaks in the water system,” said Sapienza, a Summit Sports Inc. of Sylvan Lake customer.

“When that happens, the water becomes full of bacteria, and if you have any kind of open cuts, you don’t want to be showering in that. It can kill you.”

McAleer, a 28-year-old married father of one, is stationed out of Nellis Air Force Base in Las Vegas. He was deployed in January to Kabul, where he serves as a combat air advisor, and is scheduled to return in February 2014.

Sapienza explained that while the soldiers receive fresh drinking water from tanker trucks, it would be impossible to shower beneath one.

“If the troops were to have solar shower bags, they could fill the bags with the fresh water and hang them in the sun to warm throughout the day,” he said.

“The solar showers go for about $35 apiece, and when he said he needed 30-40 … that was above what I could do alone.”

An Army veteran himself, Sapienza also has a background in the outdoor retail industry. He decided to contact Summit Sports to see if they could help.

“I grew up in Livingston County, and I wanted to choose a business that was local. They were very helpful,” he said.

“I got a call back a couple of days later, and they were very fired up.”

Now, CampGear.com, an online subsidiary of Summit Sports Inc., has teamed up with Coleman for Showers For Soldiers — a campaign to send out one five-gallon Coleman Solar Shower for every purchase greater than $50. Online visitors may also donate one shower for $5 — well below even the wholesale price — without any other purchase necessary.

“They sold 50 immediately, and Coleman has already sent those over. We’re working on another 50 right now,” Sapienza said.

Andy Schepper, vice president of operations for CampGear.com, said Showers for Soldiers began July 1 and has been widely successful so far.

“We’ve had a surprisingly high percentage of people who are just coming and using the $5 donation option. More than half of the showers we’ve supplied so far have been from that,” Schepper said.

McAleer contacted Camp Gear.com to thank them for the campaign, as well as to notify them when the first shipment of showers arrived, Schepper said.

“They are very appreciative. Every soldier deserves clean water for showering every day, and we’re happy to provide them with a way of doing so with the Coleman Solar Showers.” 

Sapienza said his son has been overwhelmed by the response.

“He’s a humble kid. He didn’t want people to spend a lot of money,” Sapienza said.

“He told me, ‘Don’t tell grandma, or she’ll go out and spend all of her money on this.’ Those guys are just thrilled to know that total strangers are stepping up to help. It makes him feel good to know people are thinking of him.”

To donate a solar shower to soldiers, visit www.campgear.com.

Advertisement