BY MARY WICOFF
DANVILLE — When addressing your Christmas cards this year, don’t forget to set one or more aside for the men and women serving overseas.
A local teenager is on a mission to collect as many cards as she can and mail them to those who won’t be home for the holidays.
Trinity Dawson, 15, has set up brightly decorated boxes at several businesses to collect the cards, as well as any drawings, letters, pages colored by children and notes — anything to lift a soldier’s spirits.
The letters and cards will be collected Dec. 7.
“I wanted to give back this Christmas,” she said. “I wanted to send cards overseas because they can’t be home.”
Trinity, the daughter of Doug and Melissa Dawson, is a sophomore at Bismarck-Henning High School, where she is an honor student and varsity cheerleader.
She came up with the idea after placing as second runner-up in the junior miss division of Nakota’s Natural Beauty Pageant earlier this year. The pageant honors Nakota Lynn Jones, who died of a brain aneurism in 2008 at age 2½.
The pageant queen is responsible for doing community projects in honor of the child; the runners-up are not required to do projects. However, Trinity was so touched by Nakota’s story and short life that she wanted to do something to help others.
Pam Messick of Covington, Ind., organized the pageant to keep the memory of her granddaughter alive by raising money to help other children. She and her friends also sponsor softball tournaments, and Trinity has been involved in the tournaments since the first one five years ago.
“Her heart is so about Nakota. I think that speaks volumes,” Messick said.
“She’s pretty smart and very giving.”
The boxes set up at businesses will be decorated in a Christmas theme and will have a picture of Nakota on them.
Trinity also is concerned about people who might not have the funds to buy a card. So, extra Christmas cards and pens will be available with each box.
Trinity’s mother, Melissa Dawson, said, “It doesn’t have to be a store-bought Christmas card. It can be a drawing or a letter or a coloring book page — anything to thank the troops.”
School children also are being encouraged to paint a picture or color something, she said. Perhaps a teacher would want to make this a class project.
The cards will be collected on Dec. 7, so they can get them in the mail to go overseas. However, the campaign may extend beyond that.
The Dawsons and Messicks know several people and have relatives who have served or are serving in the military.
“We have a lot of appreciation for the military,” Melissa said.
Batches of cards will be sent to local people serving overseas, and those people will distribute them to other service people.
Trinity said the response so far has been amazing.
“I’m positively overwhelmed. There’s so much help from family and friends and people I don’t talk to every day,” she said. “It’s nice to know people have my back on this.”
Also, she said, the project is a lot bigger than she expected it to be. But, she added, “It’s awesome.”
So far, these businesses in Danville and Covington have the boxes, and others will be added later (people may check Facebook for updates): Messick Photography, Expressions Salon, Dawson Logistics, Roselawn Dance by Merrit, Angel’s Salon, Pleasant Mound Church of Christ, CrossRoads Christian Church, Danville Institute of Gymnastics, Snoddy’s Mill, Mike’s Tattoos and American Traditions, as well as Hibbett Sports in Charleston and Curves in Lafayette, Ind.
Another project in Nakota’s memory will be the father-daughter dinner-dance from 5-8 p.m. Dec. 1 at Bismarck-Henning High School. Tickets are $30 a couple (father-daughter).
Participants will make cards for the troops and do other activities, such as making ornaments and picture frames. Santa will be there.
The event is being sponsored by the princesses from the Nakota pageant, and more information is available on the Facebook page: Making Wishes Come True by Nakota’s Princesses.
Money raised will be used to buy food and gifts for the needy.
Tickets are available by calling Messick at (765) 793-0775.
For information, a Facebook page keeps people updated on the project: Touching Soldiers’ Hearts Through Kota One Card at a Time.