Members of a U.S. Army Airborne Unit serving in Afghanistan are receiving heartfelt messages this Valentine’s Day from local students.
Three fifth-grade classes at Waupaca Middle School made cards for the unit in which Waupaca native Kevin Foote is serving.
“I was very impressed by how sincere they were about the project,” said fifth-grade teacher Dana Koeppler.
She coordinated the effort with fellow fifth-grade teachers Tricia Deuman and Jenny Lewis after Foote’s mother Peggy contacted her last fall to see if she was interested in doing a project which involved her son’s unit.
Foote’s mother contacted Koeppler because her granddaughter, Rachael Foote, is a student in Koeppler’s class.
“We’re always looking for service projects,” Koeppler said.
Around Thanksgiving, letters and care packages were sent to the 45 soldiers in the unit.
Instead of doing a Christmas exchange with their classmates, the students in the three classes and their families donated items for care packages.
The students were excited when Kevin Foote emailed the school, telling the students the packages arrived.
His niece Rachael said, “My mom was very happy because no other classes have sent care packages to him before. My grandma was also very happy about it because not all soldiers get much from their families and this way a lot of soldiers received packages.”
The three classes began talking about the project around Veteran’s Day.
Thomas Katuin remembered asking questions about what their Thanksgiving would be like, and Autumn Heisler listed the many items included in the care packages – gum, candy, handwarmers, toothpaste, playing cards and puzzles.
Drew Krcmar said when they wrote letters, they included self-addressed envelopes with the middle school’s addresss on them so the soldiers could write back to them.
Not long after Christmas, Bryce Schuelke received a letter at school.
“It was inspiring stuff,” he said. “I think it’s pretty cool for them to write to you and for you to write them back.”
When Emma Ronaldson wrote her first letter, she wanted to know how cold it gets at night and what they do.
“I get to talk to someone overseas and make them feel better,” she said.
Keleigh Much also received a letter from the soldier she wrote to.
“He said he really enjoys getting care packages from different people,” she said. “One of the things he said is he doesn’t get letters from many people.”
Two weeks ago, the students made Valentines for them, which again included notes thanking them for all they do.
Foote’s niece Rachael likes participating in a project which involves someone she knows.
“I learned that my classmates actually enjoy doing things for others, which is cool,” she said.
After her uncle graduated from Waupaca High School, he studied at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
One of the fifth-grade teachers participating in the project remembers when Foote was a student in her class.
“He was so studious, diligent. He had a great sense of humor. He was a big reader. He loved math. He loved science. He was full of energy and such a pleasure to have in class. He was a stand-out student in all areas,” Deuman said.
Koeppler said when she read an email from one of the soldiers in Foote’s unit, all her students were silent.
“It told me we need to do things like this, give them more opportunities to give back,” she said.
Koeppler said the three classes want to do at least one more project for the unit before the end of the school year.
“The best thing that came out of this is teaching the students they are citizens of the world,” she said. “Fostering that they are world citizens in fifth grade is very powerful at this age. I’m very impressed by them.”