Ethan's classmates and the boys and girls of the entire first grade at the Consolidated School in New Fairfield, CT raised money for Project Valentine by making beds, cleaning rooms, doing dishes, and other household chores then they turned in their hard earned money and were awarded a star to be placed on American flags that decorated the halls of the school.
The kids decorated Valentine's cards and wrote letters. Some students sent compasses so the Marines can "find their way home". Parents baked cookies and pastries for the Marines. Local business donated money for shipping. And the town's First Selectman presented the school and each first grader with a framed proclamation stamped with a gold seal for all their hard work.
47 boxes and less than three weeks later, the students, parents, and teachers who participated in Project Valentine have touched the lives of the Marines in 1/6 and succeeded in letting our boys overseas know they are truly loved and appreciated.
In fact, I talked to the Old Man last night and he said they're all 100% addicted to Prison Break and they made a good dent in the snacks and cookies already. He told me to let everyone know how much he and his Marines appreciate everyone's love and support and to keep an eye in the mail for those cameras!
Happy Valentine's Day everyone! Give your loved ones a big kiss, squeeze them tight tonight, and remember our boys who are sacrificing everyday to make this world a safer place.
By Brian Saxton
NEW FAIRFIELD -- Shannon Broderick tidied up her brother's room and the kitchen and earned herself $6.75. Sean King cleaned his room and the downstairs of his family's home and was rewarded with $39. Ethan Kamps helped vacuum his home and picked up $6. The three 6-year-olds and the remaining 197 first-graders at Consolidated School earned $1,200 this month by doing household chores to help pay for a Valentine's Day project supporting U.S. Marines in Iraq.
"It makes me feel good to be able to help them," Ethan said Tuesday as the children packed Valentine's Day cards and care packages to send to the troops.
Ethan's mother, Robyn, helped spearhead the project after reading a Web blog kept by her cousin Anna Hancock of Washington, D.C., whose husband is serving with the Marines in Iraq. Cpl. Hancock is based with 200 other Marines in Iraq, helping to train Iraqi soldiers.
"Anna keeps the blog to let everyone know how he is," Kamps said. "When I read one day that his favorite mail comes from a 4-year-old niece, I thought I'd tell my son's class about it."
A room mother at the school, 40-year-old Kamps said the idea of supporting Hancock's unit quickly won approval. "We decided to call it 'Valentines for Marines' and it just blossomed from there," Kamps said. "Writing and creating the cards was good exercise for the children and nice for the soldiers. The kids have done a wonderful job. They should be very proud of themselves."
Along with the cards came the idea of sending care packages. "We turned it into a class project," said first-grade teacher Roseann Vicare. "Everyone became really excited."
To earn the money needed to buy the contents of the packages, it was decided the children should do chores at home. "The response was amazing," said Vicare. "In the end the children raised $1,200." Other support came from outside the school. The New Fairfield Lions Club donated $200 and two parents each gave $250 to help pay for the shipping. Knowing the best gifts would be nonperishable items, Vicare and Kamps bought coffee, soup, crackers, games, Frisbees and playing cards. They even included copies of area newspapers, among them The News-Times.
"It was everyday stuff, things to remind them of home," Kamps said. The packages also included coloring books and crayons, as well as soccer balls and old uniforms from the New Fairfield Soccer Club, for distribution to a school close to where the Marines are stationed. Kamps hopes the Marines will use the disposable cameras they are mailing to take pictures of themselves opening the packages and them return them to the class.
Vicare believes the project has had an academic impact on the children, as well as making a humanitarian statement. "They're only 6 years old and have such a small view of the world. I think this gives them a global appreciation of what's going on outside their classrooms," Vicare said.
"The soldiers have been there so long, we also don't want them to think we've forgotten them." Each handmade Valentine's Day card, written and signed by one of the children, also contained a heart-shaped key ring they made.
Most cards echoed the sentiments expressed by students Ryne Cleary. "Dear Marine -Happy Valentine's Day," Ryne wrote. "Thank you for keeping us safe. I love you. Please be safe."