BY CAROL ROEHM
Piles of handmade Valentine’s Day cards covered two tables in Jim Rogers’ fourth-grade classroom Thursday at Edison Elementary School. The cards — fashioned from mostly red and pink construction paper and decorated with children’s artwork and stickers — are bound for the Veterans Affairs Illiana Heath Care System.
On Thursday morning, Rogers counted the cards — 907 in all — handcrafted by children from across Danville School District 118.
“I collect them from all across D118,” Rogers said. “I started doing this when I became a teacher 10 years ago.”
Rogers said he sent an e-mail about three weeks ago to District 118 teachers, asking them to have their students create valentine cards for the veterans. Wednesday was the last day Rogers collected the handmade cards.
“We always have a good response,” he said. “I’ve received them from every school in the district.”
In his own class, Rogers said he gave his students sheets of red, pink and white construction paper and let them come up with their own creations.
“I put the words up on the board so they could spell ‘veterans’ and ‘Valentine’s’ correctly,” he said.
Teresa Ard, chief of voluntary service at the VA and Rogers’ sister, said the children’s cards will be distributed to the hospitalized veterans by community members and dignitaries during the Salute to Veterans event next Thursday on Valentine’s Day. The cards also will be placed on dinner trays and used to decorate inside the VA facilities.
“We appreciate getting them ahead of time so we can decorate with them,” she said.
One of Ard’s favorite handmade decorations are the “little valentine people” — with their heart-shaped bodies and accordion-like arms and legs — that the VA staff hangs from the dining room fixtures.
In return, the veterans made 60 to 70 bookmarks with encouraging words on them for the students.
In past years, Danville schoolchildren have attended the Salute to Veterans event, but will not be able to this year.
“With the flu, the kids can’t visit this year,” Ard said. “But having the valentines will show the veterans the appreciation of the students.”
Ard said she and VA staff look through the schoolchildren’s cards every year and are amazed by what the children have created and written.
“They are so heartfelt,” she said. “They put a lot of thought into them.”
Fourth-grader Jayden Ingram said his favorite part of creating the valentine cards is “knowing that we’re going to give them to the veterans.”
His classmate, Treighton Puckett, pointed out that he made not one but two valentine cards. One of Treighton’s cards was heart-shaped and carefully colored with rainbow colors.
Fourth-grader Talia Clemons described her valentine cards. “Mine had hearts and stuff. I like making them and giving them away.”
Her classmate Diamond Neal said she, too, liked “making them and decorating them and giving them away to the veterans.”
In creating her cards, Diamond said, “I took a piece of red construction paper, and I cut hearts out of the pink construction paper and then I glued them to the red construction paper.
“I thanked the veterans for serving our country and told them to stay strong,” she said.