A former student has helped St. Martin Catholic School collect a post-Halloween haul of candy and other supplies to fill care packages for soldiers.
Lane Plunkett is a junior at Helias High School, and he needed a final project for his Tim Rulo's leadership class.
With Veterans Day approaching, Plunkett thought, "as much sacrifice as they've given us, I'd like to give back."
He contacted Dawn Crader, his former fifth-grade teacher at St. Martin.
Crader said Plunkett told her about Operation Gratitude, an organization that "annually sends 200,000+ care packages filled with food, entertainment, hygiene and handmade items, plus personal letters of appreciation to veterans, first responders, new recruits, wounded heroes, their caregivers and to individually-named U.S. service members deployed overseas and their families waiting at home," according to Operation Gratitude's website.
The website also notes the operation's volunteers have shipped more than 1.8 million care packages since 2003.
Crader said St. Martin's students brought in their leftover Halloween candy and contributed unsold candy bars from a fundraiser that were marked-down so students could purchase and then donate them to the cause.
All together, the students' trove of candy weighed about 75 pounds before Plunkett collected it Thursday morning.
Crader added students in first through eighth grades wrote letters for care packages, too. She noted her brother is an Army veteran who served in Afghanistan for 18 months before he was medically discharged.
Plunkett would like to go to a military academy after he graduates high school. He said his father served for more than six in the National Guard, though he was never deployed overseas.
"I think he's going to apply for all of them, but his preference would be the Naval Academy," his mom, Angie Plunkett, said. She said her son has visited West Point and the Coast Guard's academy, too.
She was able to collect another 25 pounds of candy at her workplace, the Office of State Courts Administrator. She added her dentist also donated supplies like toothpaste, mouth wash and floss.
She said a trip to the post office today would likely be in order, sending the 100 pounds of candy and other materials to Operation Gratitude to add to care packages.
For more information or to get involved, visit operationgratitude.com/operation-gratitude.
Anysoldier.com is another site that can connect people to soldiers who need care packages.