Wrapping Our Veterans with Love
The gym at Sacred Heart School in Shawano, Wisconsin, brimmed with students exercising their creative minds as Christmas music played. Catholic school and religious education students, ranging in age from three years old to 17, came in waves accompanied by their teachers. They swarmed the tables – one for filling bags with candy, one for crafting sparkly ornaments, one for tying fleece blankets, and one for writing cards of thanks.
Principal Aleta Young and other administrators participated in this Feeding God’s Children (FGC) event organized by Beth McFarlane (High Court Trustee), Kara Skarlupka (Vice Chief Ranger) and fellow members of local court Sacred Heart 1369. In the planning stages of the court’s first ever FGC event, Beth, with a local veterans’ home in mind, asked Dr. Rob Watson for ideas. As a member of the National Guard and local assistant principal, Dr. Rob suggested an event to benefit the Wisconsin Veterans Home at King and added that the veterans love to receive cards.
The group asked for donations for most of the items, and Beth admits that doing so made it difficult to make sure they’d get enough of everything for the event to be successful. “In the end, what we thought was a challenge turned out to be an unnecessary worry,” Beth explained. “Our parish community stepped up and provided everything we needed!”
Lori Mathwich, whose enthusiasm and positive attitude make her a natural event planning partner for Beth, is a United States Army Veteran of 20 years and Director of Religious Education at Sacred Heart Catholic Church. She and Beth worked together to arrange time for the religious education students to participate. “I think the most rewarding part of the event was seeing the students fully engage in the activities for the veterans and then seeing some of them interact with the veterans when we delivered items to the Veterans’ Home,” Beth said of the two-day event.
Less than 24 hours after handmaking more than 800 gifts, fifth graders through eighth graders hopped on a bus bound for the Wisconsin Veterans Home at King. Students split into two groups and visited the residence halls, distributing Christmas ornaments and lap blankets to veterans and their spouses. They sang a couple of Christmas carols and even “Happy Birthday” to one resident who was celebrating his special day. The smiles were brighter than the Christmas lights strung on nearby houses, and the joy in the room could have melted an icicle with its warmth.
The Wisconsin Veterans’ Home at King, a long-term and rehabilitative care facility, really is a gem like no other, as the organization’s website reads. 600 of our nation’s heroes call this place home, and it’s fitting for them to be the ones enjoying the beauty of the area. As they sacrificed so much and likely saw many unpleasant things, they deserve this heavenly view year-round.
After distributing the items, the students and teachers were treated to a presentation about military honors, including the details of a flag folding ceremony (the 12th fold glorifies, in the eyes of a Christian citizen, God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit)1, the origin of a 3-shot volley, and why a 21-gun salute has 21 guns (1+7+7+6 = 21).
You’d never guess Sacred Heart Catholic School has less than 200 students and resides in a town of about 8,500 people. Shawano might be a small town, but its residents’ big hearts are full of an even bigger love for veterans.
Article by Katlyn Gerken.