Story by Jon Breems
While most grade schoolers are preparing to send a Valentine to their close friends or secret crush, the kids at Central Elementary School in Grandville, Michigan, are making cards for a group far removed from a Midwestern classroom.
For Valentine’s Day, students at the elementary school partnered with their local Red Cross to send cards to an Army National Guard unit stationed in Kandahar, Afghanistan. The project was organized by the school’s student council.
“The idea came about almost a year ago,” said Laurie Lowry, staff advisor to the student council. “The council said ‘Wouldn’t it be cool if we sent Valentines to our troops?’ Unfortunately, it was (then) too late.”
The student council put the idea on the schedule for the following year, and Lowry began searching for an organization that could help send their cards overseas. That’s when she called the American Red Cross of Greater Grand Rapids. Lowry spoke with the region’s Service to the Armed Forces director, Sarah Day, who helped Lowry identify a recently deployed Michigan Army National Guard unit in Afghanistan.
“One of the things I really enjoyed…was being able to partner with the Red Cross because it made the process very easy,” said Lowry. “What we all need is that link to make (our ideas) happen, and the Red Cross can be that for so many others.”
The National Guard Unit receiving the cards is based out of Jackson, Michigan. It turns out one of the unit’s soldiers is a graduate of Grandville High School. She had seen several weeks earlier on Facebook that the elementary school was sending cards to troops in Afghanistan but had no idea they were being sent to her military unit.
Students from all grades at the elementary school were able to participate in the project, and, in the end, a total of 118 cards were to send to the unit. The box was also filled with assorted candies, donated by the Grand Valley Armory’s Family Assistance Program in Wyoming, MI
“This was really a first for Valentine’s Day and a fresh idea from the students,” added Lowry. “We’re very proud of our kids.”
From all of us at the Red Cross, we’re proud of them as well.