Valentine’s Day is past but that hasn’t stopped Valley Vista Students from showing they have a big heart for our men and women in the service. The students, their families and the PTA collected dozens and dozens of items to send to the troops. On February 17, during “Random Act of Kindness Week,” there was a great big packing activity.
Helena Johnson, PTA mom, has a friend who has a brother that was serving in Afghanistan so for Christmas 2014, got some classrooms to donate care packages which were sent directly to him. “This year I mentioned it to the PTA, and Principal Jeff Hill; they loved the idea. With the help of Guidance Counselor Miss Racco, the whole school got involved and our collection project exploded. There are more than 1000 items.”
Marsha Shroka, whose son, Zachary, is a third grader, just started to ask around, “many people donated cases of things like toothpaste, toothbrushes, and eye drops. People were really generous.”
Items that went into the boxes included: toothbrushes, toothpaste, tiny bottles of mouth wash, dental floss, laundry soap, Riccola throat drops, packets of cookies, and all types of things we take for granted being at home. Baby wipes are a good thing. Baby wipes you might ask, ‘why baby wipes?’ When you are far away from a shower or a place to wash your face, baby wipes feel are ooooooooooh so refreshing, and they smell good, too. There were sun glasses and eye drops for eyes that have sand in them a lot. Packing consultant, PTA dad, Army Veteran, and Ward 3 Councilman, Dan Langshaw, separated food items that would not be going overseas. Those were boxed and readied for the food pantry. It looked like almost a ton of stuff.
Special notes from each of the students in grades K through four were readied for their long trip abroad. Each student made a paper hug for a service person. The idea came from the book A Paper Hug by Stephanie Skolmoski. A boy wants to give his dad something to keep while he is deployed. The boy makes a paper hug, he traced his hands on paper, cuts them out, and attaches them with ribbon as long as his own arm span so his dad will always have a hug with him. The students in grades two through four made paper hugs with messages written on the hands. Kindergarten and grade one made hugs with the letter ‘H.’ They were carefully packed inside the boxes. Each teacher wrote a letter telling the service person receiving the box about their class. They included the address of the class. It will be exciting to see and share letters that come back to Valley Vista.
Wally Ohler provided the boxes from the post office. They are all the same size to make shipping easier. Each box was packed with as many things as would fit. Ohler gets requests from many servicemen and women through the entire year. He told the students how much these things meant to the servicemen and women who would receive them; it’s called a morale booster.
Principal Jeffrey Hill said, “It’s a great project. By doing something for the service men and women, they learn how important it is to support our troops. Many of our children know of someone who is doing their job in the service and not at home.”
This is not the first time Valley Vista has reached out to the veterans. Every year the students honor local veterans and family members who have served in a Veteran’s Day program and reception. In 2014, a few teachers had their students make Christmas cards and goodie bags to send to an Air Force base in Afghanistan. Just last year, there was a school-wide Skype session with a former Valley Vista student who is now a Marine.
“At Valley Vista we feel it is important to teach our students that together you can make a difference for the people in the world around you,” said Hill. “If we encourage these students to practice kindness and work to spread it wherever they go, the possibilities are endless.”

Contributing Writer