What do Tasty Kakes, Kraft Mac & Cheese and beef jerky have in common?
Well, if you were serving overseas, you might be missing the comforts of all three.
On Tuesday night, students, staff and families gathered to pack and ship hundreds of goodie bags for military service members serving overseas.
The district-wide Treats for Troops event was organized by the Lower Merion Education Association in conjunction with Lower Merion parent Fred Klevan, the founder of the Philadelphia Treats for Troops program.
Treats for Troops seeks to boost troop morale by sending personalized packages to soldiers, marines, sailors and airmen stationed in Iraq and Afghanistan. Names of deployed soldiers are sent by Klevan's contacts in the National Guard, as well as by friends and family who request packages for their loved ones through the Treats for Troops website.
"Fred was telling [us about Treats for Troops] ... and it seemed like just such an obvious thing we wanted to support," explained Joe Mudd, outreach director for LMEA and Penn Valley Elementary School teacher, at Tuesday's packing event. "We have men and women stationed overseas for such long periods of time, so if we can do something to bring a little bit of sunshine into their lives, we certainly want to do that."
And with students and staff in the district who have family members serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, it's a personal effort, too. Just last week, the district shipped two packages to a district elementary school teacher's nephew who is serving overseas, Mudd said.
While smaller in-district Treats for Troops drives have been held in recent years, this is the first district-wide effort—with students, staff and families from and heading the collection efforts (held May 21 to June 1), elementary school students painting and creating cards, and hosting the packing event.
The drive has been extremely successful, according to Aimee Avellino, one of the event organizers and a third-grade teacher at Cynwyd Elementary School.
What makes the care packages work is the personal touch from students. The boxes are handpainted by district elementary school students with red, white and blue designs—everything ranging from American flags to flowers. Also included are personalized handmade cards for service members (see a few in the photo gallery above).
"What we hear back from the uniformed people who email us is ... it's the decorated boxes, it’s the cards [that are most important], because it really puts that intensely personal piece to it, like there was somebody on the other end of this effort," Mudd explained.
One letter received by Treats For Troops earlier this year, following a high school Treats for Troops drive, reads in part:
... I would also like to thank the young students and faculty from the Harriton High School and Lower Merion High School for the treats they sent and the kind words in letters that I appreciate more than words could ever say. I read every letter and would like to thank every student for taking time out to do this for soldiers like me.
I'm proud to serve my country and it’s people like you and your organization that keep me in good spirits. May God Bless you and your organization for being so kind to all the soldiers serving this great nation.
Msg Kenneth Schaeffer
View the photo gallery above for a few images from the packing event, including some of the cards created by LMSD students.