By Dan Williams, Executive Director of the American Red Cross Serving Northern Minnesota
The American Red Cross Holiday Mail for Heroes program boils down to messages of thanks and well wishes to people who are serving or have served in the American armed forces. While the number of cards signed, gathered, and distributed is large — more than 15,300 this year in northern Minnesota — our Red Cross volunteers, and other important helpers, ensured that every local service member or veteran received a bundle of cards wrapped in a ribbon with a gift tag attached.
Each bundle was special. Each card was special.
I think the cards are so special that I want to take the opportunity to share a few of the messages with you.
Many of the cards had patriotic themes, and great artwork. Some of them had extremely heartfelt messages. And, some were even written from the perspective of the family dog.
This card could not be more perfect.
Imagine, a holiday message from a WWII veteran! Thank you, Jerry, for your service!
A great card with a great message.
Bridget from Esko has it right!
Sometimes the best message is just ‘thanks.’
Making it happen
Holiday Mail for Heroes is part of our local Red Cross Services to Armed Forces. We have learned through this undertaking, during this year and past years:
- People in our communities genuinely thank and support our military service members and veterans from the bottom of their hearts through the Holidays Mail for Heroes
- People in military service members, or who are veterans, genuinely appreciate the gratitude and support provided by the Holidays Mail for Heroes
Across northern Minnesota, in 2014 we collected, sorted, and distributed just over 7,000 cards to local service members and veterans. In 2015, we expanded our efforts to include a handful of senior living facilities and county veterans services officers, which resulted in the distribution of more than 12,000 thank you messages. This year, as of December 21st, we were up to 15,385 cards distributed to nearly 4,000 military members and veterans from our chapter!
Holiday Mail for Heroes would not happen without a delightful mix of community and corporate involvement. Some key contributors returned to this project. For example, nearly all students from Brainerd High School made cards again this year. Thanks to Beth Bastain for making this happen! The quality and thoughtfulness of the messages and artwork in their cards, reminds me that the future is in good hands with our youth. And, when I think of youth, I must mention the great students from Bryant Elementary in Superior, Wisconsin. For the fourth year in a row, our Red Cross chapter received incredible cards from the students there. Thanks to Principal Kate Tesch for her leadership!
We had great support from businesses as well, with over 5,000 blank cards printed up for use at public events hosted by Essentia Health, Bent Paddle Brewing, ZMC Hotels, and Thrivent Financial. We could not have made this happen without their support. Another company that made a massive difference this year is DeCare Dental. Through their locations in Gilbert and in Eagan, they signed over 4,000 Holiday Mail for Heroes cards.
Our colleges were incredibly supportive as well, with the University of Minnesota-Duluth Athletic Department, and Greek Life Club being key partners. The College of St. Scholastica was incredible as well, with support ranging from the Hockey Cheerleaders to the Sisters at the adjacent Benedictine Monastery.
Most of all, if you’re a military veteran, thank you for your service. If you have veterans you’re close to, please pass along our thanks to them as well.
Happy holidays to everyone!