Hugs for Our Soldiers: Heritage Middle students support troops overseas
By Matthew Stewart | (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Heritage Middle School’s sixth-graders are sending their love, appreciation and a little Christmas cheer to our troops overseas.
The school has participated in the Hugs for Our Soldiers program for nine years, said founder Kathy Orcutt. This year, for the first time, the school’s entire sixth grade class participated in the program.
Nearly 300 students made troop care packages in Angie King’s and Leigh Terry’s classrooms. They wrote letters on the outside of white paper bags and stuffed them with candy canes, chips, crackers, fruit snacks, granola bars and popcorn.
Hugs for Our Soldiers will send the care packages to Afghanistan’s Panjwayi district. The packages will reach troops, including Army Capt. Ryan Meader and his platoon who are living in one tent.
“The nearest PX (Post Exchange) or place to buy things we need is a two- to four-hour drive, and we don’t get the opportunity (to) go over there very often,” Meader said in an email to Hugs for Our Soldiers. “The men sometimes run out of feel-good items like junk food and snacks, along with basic hygiene products like shampoo. Current magazine reading material is always appreciated, as well.”
Hugs for Our Soldiers is a volunteer-based nonprofit organization that has been supporting U.S. troops since 2003.
“It’s a nice program to show the soldiers we care, because they’re out there getting hurt and fatigued,” said Landon Davis. “The least that we can do is make them a goodie bag.”
“They’ve dedicated their lives to us,” said Laura Wigdor. “I feel that they’re the real celebrities, the people that we should be looking up to now. It’s so amazing that they’d do this for me. We just can’t give back enough. It’s an honor to give them something to show that we care and send them a piece of home.”
Last year, Wigdor helped assemble 350 troop care packages at Porter Elementary School. More than 10 fifth-graders bundled two pairs of socks, stuffed them with foot powder and wrapped them with red, white and blue ribbon.
“Hugs for Our Soldiers was such a new experience last year, and it was exciting to be able to give back again this year,” she said. “I really want to thank them. If I met a soldier in person, I’d personally thank them. I’d like to give lots of hugs for our soldiers.”
“Our students are young, but they can still do something for their country and other people,” Terry said. “They really got into this year’s project. They brought in more items and raised more money than any previous class. I hope that we’re able to continue doing this as long as our troops are deployed.”
“Blount County students have a big desire to help others,” Orcutt said. “Blount County breeds it.”
Lanier Elementary School, Porter Elementary School and local Girl Scouts are currently working on their own service projects, she said.