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St Valentine's Letter Project Explained At Reed School



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St Valentine’s Letter Project Explained At Reed School

By Eliza Hallabeck

“One seed,” said St Valentine’s Day Project Chair Donna Monteleone Randle at Reed Intermediate School on Thursday, November 12, addressing people interested in the project. “One thought.”

The St Valentine’s Day Project is a local initiative to send valentines to servicemembers overseas. It earned special recognition in Hartford two weeks ago when Newtown’s state Representative Chris Lyddy brought the project before the Connecticut General Assembly. Ms Randle and Reed Intermediate Assistant Principal Anthony Salvatore presented the project, and the same presentation was shared with prospective local school representatives for the project on Thursday.

“For people overseas, unlike when I was in Korea during peacetime, these guys are not going through peacetime. It is not just a training exercise that you are going through,” said Ms Randle during the presentation in the school’s cafetorium. “This is real world. This is real life, and so many young men and women don’t have the support systems that you and I have.”

The seed, as Ms Randle explained, that started the program, which sent 2,500 letters and cards to troops overseas last Valentine’s Day, began three years ago with her son and his second grade teacher at Sandy Hook Elementary School, Carol MacInnes.

Ms MacInnes was working on putting together a letter writing project for January, and asked if Ms Randle knew anyone to whom the students could write letters. Ms Randle said the family was relatively new to Newtown at the time, and quickly the idea and effort to write to troops for Valentine’s Day came together.

That year Sandy Hook School students sent out 50 cards and letters in January; the following year more than 200 letters were sent out. This year 2,500 letters were sent out from the district, and for 2010, Ms Randle, with volunteers, is looking forward to all the schools in the district participating in the project. Local churches and other groups will also be participating.

Dr Salvatore, who gave last week’s presentation with Ms Randle, said the goal is to send out 5,000 cards and letters from Newtown this school year.

Together, they walked the audience through the history of the project and where they would like to see it go.

“The WWE [World Wrestling Entertainment] got involved last year,” said Dr Salvatore, and joking, he continued, “again, with me. I don’t know how they got my name.”

Two clusters from Reed Intermediate School participated in writing letters for WWE wrestlers to bring with them overseas in a WWE initiative called “Tribute To The Troops.” The students were videoed and featured in the “Tribute To The Troops” program, which aired last year on NBC. The students were able to view themselves reading their letters on the program.

“You never know how a small idea grows,” said Dr Salvatore.

The growing hope for the project, according to both Dr Salvatore and Ms Randle, is the program will grow beyond Newtown and spread to other towns.

“There are so many benefits to writing letters,” said Ms Randle, “other than supporting the troops overseas.”

Ms Randle said the response to the project can be viewed in the hallways of the schools as students begin to receive letters back from the troops to whom they wrote.

Reed teacher Michelle Failla participated in the project at the school last year, and she said the entire process is exciting.

“We’re thanking them,” said Ms Failla, “and they are thanking us.”

The kickoff for students involved in the 2010 St Valentine’s Day Project is scheduled to happen at Reed Intermediate School on Thursday, January 4.

To submit names of military personnel serving overseas, contact Ms Randle at ndrandle@charter.net or at 203-364-9772.

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