Terri Marten, Terry Stotler, and Jamie Renalli

KEARNEYSVILLE, W.Va. -- Veterans at the Martinsburg VA Medical Center will receive an extra dose of holiday cheer thanks to a group of students from Jefferson County Schools (JCS). Elementary students taking part in the JCS 2022 Summer Experience at Page Jackson Elementary School (PJE) made festive cards to deliver to local veterans during the holiday season. The STEM-based project was a collaborative effort, said JCS aide Jamie Ranalli, who supervised the Summer Experience STEM Lab at PJE.

"As we entered our holiday-themed week in mid-July, a fifth-grade student suggested we use our leftover art supplies from Patriotic Week to make holiday cards for veterans," explained Ranalli. "It was very much a student-driven project."

Students used lessons they learned about blending different colors to paint the cards, creating evergreen branches with a method known as “fork painting.” K-2 students used their math skills to count how many fork prints it took to create their artwork, while students in grades 3-5 utilized counting by tens to construct their cards. Students also learned about the ultimate sacrifice made by many of our veterans by researching the Wreaths Across America ceremonies at Arlington National Cemetery and more than 3,400 additional locations nationwide, at sea, and abroad.

Ranalli worked with Terry Stotler, chief of Voluntary Service for Martinsburg VA Medical Center, to coordinate the delivery of the cards ahead of the holiday season. Stotler said the cards will be distributed to residential veterans at the nursing home level of care.

"We try to supply our residential veterans with cards during the holiday season, especially now when we still can't allow visitors due to Covid. The more cards, gift bags, and presents we get, the more we can share those with them and provide some holiday spirit."

Stotler added that gifts from children are extra special. "Our veterans enjoy having kids reach out and do this type of thing," he said. "They get a real kick out of that."

Renalli is thrilled with the project and proud of her students' ingenuity, generosity, and patriotic spirit.

"This nation will remain the land of the free only so long as it is the home of the brave," she said, sharing one of her favorite quotes. "That's such a powerful message, and I feel like this project is a fitting way to honor our veterans for Veterans Day and the upcoming holiday season."

Pictured above: Terri Marten, VAMC; Terry Stotler, VAMC; and Jamie Renalli, JCS Aide