December 14, 2011 - Students at Springfield Plains Elementary sent a little Christmas cheer to troops in Afghanistan.
Springfield Plains Elementary fifth graders, with holiday care packages they collected and packed for troops overseas. Photo by Phil Custodio (click for larger version)
"It's been a fantastic service learning experience," said fifth-grade teacher Amy Campbell, whose husband, Col. Sean Campbell, is stationed there. "Local businesses have stepped up, and families donated as much as they could for the troops – I feel very blessed."
All four fifth-grade classes at Springfield Plains took part, contacting businesses for sponsorships and collecting donations since October.
"They gave more than expected," said fifth-grader Beckett Cantwell.
"We filled up big boxes with donations from families and businesses – a lot of stuff," said classmate Kaitlyn Joyner.
The talked to Col. Campbell using Skype over the Internet, and he sent them a list of things they need to have a merrier Christmas.
Fifth-grader Ben Ehrenberger sent a letter to Bordine Nursery.
"My family is good friends with them, and I knew they would donate, so I thought it would be a good idea to write them a letter," he said.
He asked for prelit Christmas trees, and the plant nursery donated several.
"You can't celebrate Christmas without Christmas trees," he said.
Cantwell wrote to Home Depot.
"I knew they help with a lot of things," he said.
The business donated dozens of boxes of Christmas lights.
"They brought a lot of lights," he said.
Joyner wrote to Cosco.
"They have all sorts of items, and I knew they were willing to donate," she said.
The store gave the students a gift card, which they used to buy several items for the care packages.
"It was very generous of them to donate," she said.
"Home Depot, Bordine, and Cosco, they went above and beyond," Campbell said.
They also collected $500 in donations to help with postage.
The class Skyped Col. Campbell a couple times, learning about Afghanistan, his mission, and the people there.
"He talked about what he does in the Air Force and the base and the many types of people who are there," Joyner said.
"There are people from a lot of countries," Ehrenberger said. "They don't have a lot to choose from in food, just a couple of choices."
"He told us what it was like to live in a small place," Joyner said.
"His room was about half the size of a mattress," Ehrenberger said. "He showed us the moon, to show us it was nighttime."
"It was cool to see the time difference," Joyner said.
On Veterans Day, the pilot Skyped a school in Indiana, as well as with his children's classes in Clarkston.
"It's been an amazing journey," Amy Campbell said. "It's hard to have him away, but we've had wonderful support."
Now they're collecting school supplies for 3,500 Afghan students.
"That's the next mission," she said.
Phil is editor for The Clarkston News. He is a veteran of the first Iraq war, having served in the U.S. Army.