At Christmas, the children write cards, collect toiletries ranging from lip balm to foot powder, and decorate the boxes for their gifts.
In March, they collect donated Girl Scout cookies for the soldiers.
“I just like helping the soldiers,” says Susanna Tsueda, who brought in a large quantity of Girl Scout cookies. “And I like it that they send back notes for the things we send.”
The students’ reactions continually touch their teachers.
“They really understand that it’s an amazing thing that we’re helping people that they’re never going to meet, but we’re touching their lives in a small way,” Legault says. “And we’re grateful to the soldiers because they’re serving our country, and they’ve volunteered to do that.”
A tearful encounter and a special plan
The efforts by the children show them that they’re part of something bigger than themselves.
The children’s collections at St. Simon School are also part of a major project that has been led for the past eight years by a remarkable woman.
When the United States went to war against Iraq in March of 2003, Diane Spaulding of Indianapolis soon joined an effort by the Salvation Army to send care packages to American soldiers serving in Iraq.
After the Salvation Army effort ended a few months later, Spaulding faced a crossroads moment when she saw a man crying as she walked through the Hillcrest Country Club in Indianapolis, where she is a member.
“One of our maintenance men was in the hallway, and he had tears in his eyes,” Spaulding recalls. “I went up and asked him about it. He said his son was being shipped out to Iraq. His son had a wife and a child. I asked him, ‘What can we do?’ He asked me to pray for his son Jeff. I went home and talked to my husband, Doug, and said we need to do something. He said to go for it.”
(Story continues below)
Subscribe to our daily newsletter
At Catholic News Agency, our team is committed to reporting the truth with courage, integrity, and fidelity to our faith. We provide news about the Church and the world, as seen through the teachings of the Catholic Church. When you subscribe to the CNA UPDATE, we'll send you a daily email with links to the news you need and, occasionally, breaking news.
As part of this free service you may receive occasional offers from us at EWTN News and EWTN. We won't rent or sell your information, and you can unsubscribe at any time.
Spaulding’s plan was to continue the “care package” program with the help of friends and country club members, a group that became known as the Hillcrest Guardian Angels.
“The first soldiers were members of the Indiana National Guard out of Terre Haute (which included Jeff),” Spaulding says. “They were there for 18 months. We would get names from other people, too. A mother would call. A grandmother would call, and we would add them to the list. We shipped 1,000 boxes for Christmas of 2004. By then, I realized we needed help.”
St. Simon School became involved through the interest of two women whose children have attended the school—Linda Collier and Meg Paligraf.
“That school has been the most wonderful benefactor to our soldiers,” Spaulding says. “Whatever we ask them, they are willing to do.”
That willingness leads to a story that makes Spaulding laugh every time that she shares it.
An unusual use for toothbrushes