EAGLE COUNTY, Colorado - For Vail Mountain School students, the federal holiday honoring Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is a day on, not a day off.
More than 15 organizations, thousands of people and a few dogs and horses were touched by the Vail Mountain School's student and faculty's volunteer hours on MLK Day. They got at least as much as they gave, they said.
"The importance of service to others is one of the most powerful lessons we can teach our children," said Kate Blakelee, Vail Mountain School community-service coordinator.
Some students got dirty; others used their brains.
A few students developed a Prezi for The Youth Foundation. That's a Web-based road map showing the benefits of The Youth Foundation's programs, through high school and into college.
At the other end of that spectrum, a group of outdoor-minded students hiked through the snow with the Forest Service and helped clear out and dismantle a squatter shelter in the national forest. They hauled out enough trash to fill a Dumpster.
Then there were the two groups that headed to the Front Range, one to work in a soup kitchen and another to work with abused and abandoned horses at Colorado Horse Rescue.
The Grant Avenue Street Reach Soup Kitchen and The Crossing in Denver are part of the Denver Rescue Mission. Each Monday, Grant Reach prepares and serves 2,500 meals to Denver's homeless.
"Perhaps the greatest part of the day was our interactions with individuals from a variety of backgrounds who had reached their stay at The Crossing for different reasons but who had all managed to turn their lives around," said Adam Dube, Vail Mountain School upper-school director.
Closer to home, the school sent a crew to Gypsum to work with Habitat for Humanity.
"I have been volunteering at Habitat for Humanity in the Vail Valley for over six years," senior Drew Verratti said. "It is a great opportunity to interact with members of my community, working side by side with them, helping them realize their dream of owning a home and creating a better future for their family."
Elementary and middle school students stuck a little closer to home.
The kindergarten, together with the fourth grade, made blankets for Project Linus, an organization that provides security blankets to children in need, many in hospitals battling life-threatening illnesses.
Students watched King's "I Have a Dream" speech and studied the 1963 March on Washington. They researched Brown vs. Board of Education, Rosa Parks and the Montgomery bus boycott, the Woolworth lunch counter sit-ins and the Freedom Riders celebrated speech. Fifth-graders wrote letters to U.S. military personnel serving in Afghanistan.
Students also visited the McCoy Senior Center, where they served a lunch of homemade pizza, played bingo and performed music.
Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 or firstname.lastname@example.org.