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'Sending Holiday Joy'

Photo by Jeylin White To spread even more holiday cheer, Kilpatrick’s third-grade teachers, Tabatha Wesley, Tiffany Moody, and Nancy Riccardi, went the extra mile, and had their students donate Ramen noodles and long, black socks for a care package for soldiers serving overseas. 

Photo by Jeylin White To spread even more holiday cheer, Kilpatrick’s third-grade teachers, Tabatha Wesley, Tiffany Moody, and Nancy Riccardi, went the extra mile, and had their students donate Ramen noodles and long, black socks for a care package for soldiers serving overseas. 

“What would you like for Christmas?” was the question 8-year-old Kyler Hendricks asked in her letter to soldiers serving overseas.

Her classmate, Malik Manning, also 8, thanked the soldiers for “the hard work they do to protect our country. It’s a lot of work being in the Army,” he said.

Manning and Hendricks –– third-graders at Kilpatrick Elementary School –– were not alone in their attempts to try to bring a little joy to soldiers serving in a foreign land this holiday season.

Scores of students at the school joined in, showing their holiday spirit, and wrote letters to a Marine unit overseas.

Kristan Crews, music instructor at Kilpatrick, said more than 600 students wrote letters to soldiers, wishing them a happy holiday season. The idea to send letters to soldiers was part of a school district initiative.

“It was a whole list of things we could send –– so, we decided to do letters,” said Crews. “Some of the letters are really nice –– we even had students asking [if their letters] were going to go to [their] brother overseas.”

Crews shared from one letter written by a student, who told the soldiers of an uncle who was killed in battle.

In addition to the letters, Kilpatrick’s third-grade teachers, Tabatha Wesley, Tiffany Moody, and Nancy Riccardi, went the extra mile, and had their students donate Ramen noodles, and long, black socks to make a kind of care package. Crews said she also got some of her second-graders to donate packs of chewing gum, to include in the care package.

Wesley said this project has been something near and dear to her heart. Her brother, Gary Sisterman, who is in the Marine Corps, has been deployed to Afghanistan twice. “[My students] know that I’m real big on our military –– and they like hearing stories about my brother,” said Wesley, “They really fell in love with the project.”

Wesley added that it was her brother who said the Ramen noodles and black socks were the best items to send to soldiers. “My brother said the [soldiers] could cook the [Ramen] in their old MRE packets,” she said. “It’s special because [soldiers are] tired of eating all that MRE [meals ready to eat.]”

Chewing gum is like money, and soldiers sometimes trade gum for other food items, Wesley said her brother told her.

The youngsters seemed to be more than eager to connect with soldiers overseas. Many of them expressed their excitement when their teachers said they would be able to send the holiday wishes.

Eight-year-old Carmen Tavera was one of those students. Tavera said she wanted to let soldiers know how much she cared for them. “Some of the soldiers don’t have families, and they need to be cheered up sometimes,” said Tavera.

Crews said the young pupils have somewhat of an understanding of why they were writing letters to soldiers stationed in Afghanistan. “I don’t get into much detail, because I don’t want to scare them,’ she said, “But, for the most part, they understand.”

Eight-year-old Malik Manning said he understood why he wrote his letter. “I know, sometimes, soldiers see people die,” he said. Tavera agreed. “Some of the soldiers are sad, because some of their friends die during the war,” she said.

Crews said showing appreciation to the men and women serving our country should be something that is done year around –– not just during the holidays. “We should not just wait until Thanksgiving and Christmas to do things for [our soldiers],” said Crews. “My Father was a soldier, and I’m very passionate about our military.”

Wesley said the letters and the care package will be sent to the local Red Cross, which will send them to a Marine Corps unit in Afghanistan. “Hopefully, it will get to the soldiers by Christmas,” she said.