Valentines for Veterans program celebrates its 5th year of connecting students with service members
As Valentine’s Day approaches, students in the Puyallup School District are setting aside some time this week to make thank-you cards for the fifth annual Valentines for Veterans, a tribute to troops launched by U.S. Rep. Denny Heck, D-Olympia.
The tribute connects different generations while recognizing those who have served or are currently serving.
“Part of why I like it is that it’s fun for both sides,” said Heck. “It’s a unique way to say thank you. (Service members) deserve it.”
Heck began Valentines for Veterans after being elected to the United States House of Representatives for Washington’s District 10. A high volume of troops and veterans live in District 10, which encompasses Joint Base Lewis-McChord. Heck wanted to recognize them.
Last year, Heck visited students at Maplewood Elementary in Puyallup as they created their valentines.
“I always ask, ‘How many of you have mothers and fathers in uniform?’ and it’s always a high number because of where we live,” Heck said.
“This program has the opportunity (for) younger students to learn about what their classmates’ family (members) have done,” added Lauren Adler, deputy district director for Heck.
Students are excited to be a part of the tribute, said Maplewood Principal Susan Walton.
“We do a great Veterans Day assembly here and it’s such a nice way to follow up — to make Veterans Day not just one day of the year,” she said. “(Students) love it and it doesn’t matter how young they are. They know who they’re writing to and why.”
This is Maplewood Elementary’s second year participating. Every classroom participates, from preschool to sixth grade. Maplewood currently has 432 students.
“In kindergarten you get a lot of cute drawings and in sixth grade you get a lot of heartfelt thank yous,” Walton said.
Whatever the message, Heck’s district offices collect all the of the valentines to distribute to veterans and service members across the district, including those at the Life Care Center in Puyallup.
Last year, 5,500 valentine cards were collected — the largest amount recorded. This year, Heck hopes for more.
“Every year we try hard to extend our reach,” Adler said. “We want to share this far and wide.”
For anyone interested in participating in the program, valentines can be dropped off at the district offices between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. through Friday (Feb. 3).
Other Puyallup schools participating in the project include Aylen Junior High, Ballou Junior High, Fruitland Elementary, Puyallup High School and Wildwood Elementary.