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WASHINGTON — Capt. Conrad Alan Schupay knew he wasn’t going to be able to take his car to Afghanistan, so he gave it to someone who could use it: foster children.

The 32-year-old Florida National Guardsman, who will be deployed next month, donated his 1991 Toyota to Connected by 25, a Tampa-area charity which helps teens adjust from life as a foster child to adulthood.

He had not been directly involved with the charity in the past, so the donation left its leaders stunned.

“For him to think about others when he is getting ready to deploy is inspirational,” said Diane Zambito, spokesman for the group. “His example is a true story of patriotism and generosity.”

For the past three months, one of the group’s employees, Krystal Harper, has used the car to travel to and from work, where she mans a hot line for foster youth.

Harper, a college student and former foster child, also uses the car to transport teens to and from after-school programs at the group’s headquarters. Zambito said this week’s program was a talk by local military officials about military careers and life choices, and because of Schupay’s gift, more teens were able to attend.

“Public transportation just doesn’t cover everything here,” Zambito said. “We’re just so appreciative of [Schupay’s] donation.”

Schupay, who grew up in Tampa, admits the car isn’t stylish but said the engine is still in good condition. But he downplayed his generosity, saying it simply “made sense” to donate the vehicle to the group.

“I could have kept the car, but I knew I’d probably need a new one by the time I got back,” he said. “I had been talking about donating it anyway and buying something newer, and a friend told me about the group.”

So when he headed to Mississippi for training with the 153rd Calvary’s Echo company, his car stayed behind. On the few occasions when he has needed a ride, he has relied on his girlfriend to shuttle him back and forth.

Schupay spent seven years in the Army after graduating from West Point in 1995, and joined the Guard last year. This deployment will be his first, but he said he is comfortable with the assignment and ready for duty.

But before he heads out next week, he stopped by Connected by 25’s headquarters for a formal “thank you” ceremony on Thursday. He said he’s embarrassed by the attention, but happy to help the group.

The Guard unit is scheduled to return in July 2006. Schupay said when he returns, top on his list of things to do will be buying a car.

“Maybe something new,” he said.


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