Avon kids send soldiers a ‘piece of home’ | VailDaily.com

Avon kids send soldiers a ‘piece of home’

Lauren Glendenning
Avon, CO Colorado
Dominique Taylor/Vail DailyCesar Rios, 10, right, gets some ideas from his Francisco Rodriguez, 9, left, on what to write to a soldier serving in Iraq during an after-school program at Avon Elementary School in Avon, Colorado.

AVON, Colorado ” Fourth and fifth graders in Avon, Colorado are hoping to spread their smiles and laughter as far as Iraq this holiday season.

Avon Elementary School students wrote letters to two American soldiers in Iraq as part of the Youth Foundation’s After School Literacy program. After a quick lesson on writing letters, the children picked up their pencils and let the words flow.

“Thank you for protecting us from other armies,” wrote Francisco Rodriguez, 9. “If you can, can you bring pictures of the guns you have?”

It’s those kinds of questions that teachers hope will brighten the soldiers’ days, even if only for a brief moment, said Deborah Savino-Gregory, coordinator and teacher for the Avon program.

Savino-Gregory chose the Soldier’s Angels program as a way to have her students give back to a cause ” something that’s part of the after-school program’s mission. Her husband served in the Persian Gulf War and received letters from children under a similar program that linked soldiers and children. She said the letters helped make time go by a little faster. It reminded him that his work is appreciated back home.

The Avon Elementary students tried to write the perfect letters. They didn’t want their letters to be boring and go unread. They also didn’t want to ask too many questions because the soldiers may not be able to respond.

Instead they told the soldiers about all the snow here. They thanked them for “being brave and going to war.” They wished them well and wondered how long their workdays lasted. They hoped the soldiers were having the best day of their lives.

The students will write letters every two weeks, and send one care package a month, to Joe Espinosa and Michael Medina, both in the U.S. Army.

For Ines Barcenas, a fifth grade teacher and an after-school program teacher, the letters were especially poignant. Medina is her brother-in-law.

The letters will be a surprise for Medina, who’s on the tail end of a 14-month deployment, and no doubt needs a little support, she said.

“It just means so much to the soldiers,” Barcenas said. “It kind of makes them have a piece of home while they’re away.”

The letters are one of many projects that the Youth Foundation’s after school students do through the Literacy Program.

The program provides extra education for children and also give them a safe place to be during hours of the day when kids are prone to get into trouble or experiment with things they shouldn’t, said Katie Bruen, spokeswoman for the Youth Foundation, which sponsors the program.

The After School Literacy program, which is also held at Gypsum Elementary, Edwards Elementary and Meadow Mountain Elementary, is always literacy-based, has some kind of parent involvement, teaches character development and gives back to the community in some way.

“And, of course, it’s fun,” Bruen said.

– Soldier’s Angels is a nonprofit that supports U.S. Armed Forces through various ways, including pairing them up with pen pals, sending care packages, supporting their family members and so much more. To check it out or to get involved, visit soldiersangels.com

– To learn more about the Youth Foundation, or to volunteer or donate, visit theyouthfoundation.org

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