Friday, May 8, 2009

Connecting with our troops is a fantastic website that allows you to write to a US troop member who is deployed. The site suggested sending small "beanie baby" size toys to the troops who will gladly hand them on to local children where they are stationed.

In January, 2009 Eric and I went to and picked a troop member to whom Eric would write. His name is David Goodknecht. Dave is currently part of the 10th Mountain Division serving in Afghanistan. He's 19, married to Emily and lives in Texas. After selecting an Elmo toy to send, Eric wrote the following letter to him:

Dear Soldier Dave,

My name is Eric. I live in Canada. I am four.

Thank you Soldier Dave for fighting all of the bad guys.

Thank you for keeping us safe.

Soldier Dave, thank you for keeping us not hurt.

Thank you for leaving your family at home. I think you miss them.

Please give Elmo to a little boy.

I made this painting for you.

I love you, Soldier Dave.


We sent off our package (including cookies, chips and playing cards) to "Soldier Dave". We didn't expect to hear back, but about eight weeks later, we got this reply:

Dear Eric,

Hey there buddy. I got your package today and I was very happy to see that it was from someone in Canada. I know that you don't know me and that I'm not even from the same country as you, yet you still support me. Thank you for Elmo...I know just the little boy to give him to. Thank you so much for everything else in your package as well. Again it really means a lot to me to have your support. I think it is so amazing when younger kids send packages to us, because they do it with all of the love in their hearts. I also really like the picture you made me, I will hang it in my tent so that everyone can see it. Maybe when I come home, my wife and I will come to visit you and I can bring you some pictures. I'm not sure how far it is, but I promise if I can make the trip to thank you in person, I will. I really hope that you continue to make pictures for me and that I can write back to you. Is there anything that you like to do as far as watch sports or anything? If there is, please put that in your next letter.

I think you are an awesome young man and I can't wait to hear back from you.

With love, Soldier Dave

Eric and Soldier Dave have written back and forth several times now. We've also received letters and photos from Dave's wife, Emily telling us how much Dave enjoys having a four year old pen pal. The photo above is David and Emily on that day that he shipped out. We pray every night for his safe return.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Valentines for firefighters

Every time I drive by the fire station, my son Eric waves to the fire fighters from his car seat and remembers the day we brought them valentines. The visit to the fire hall with Eric’s small, homemade gift earned him a chance to sit behind the wheel of the fire engine and turn on the siren himself. Eric speaks of that day with the type of enthusiasm usually reserved for Christmas morning or Disney World.

We were making valentines anyway, which is where great service ideas always seem to start. I suggested making some additional valentines for our local firefighters as our way of saying thanks for keeping us safe. We decided on a garland instead of individual valentines, since a garland could be displayed in a common area at the firehall. We had construction paper, stickers, markers and glue...and limited "crafting" abilities. Simple and cute was our goal.

We began by calling the fire station and asking for the first names of our firefighters. We also made an appointment to deliver our tribute in person.

Next we made a simple chain of hearts accordian-style (one for each firefighter). Eric decorated each heart with the names of the firefighters and stickers (rocket ship stickers, actually. Eric was POSITIVE that firefighters like rocket ships). The six middle hearts on the garland spelled T-H-A-N-K-S.

We delivered the garland on the Sunday before Valentines Day. Firefighter Kevin Schmalz hung our garland in the break room before giving Eric his own helmet and a tour of the firehouse. First stop: the truck bay. There was the fire engine. Eric's eyes were the size of saucers. Kevin asked Eric if he wanted to drive the firetruck. Eric sat behind the wheel and "steered". Then, Kevin showed Eric how to turn on the lights and siren. Eric turned them on himself. We saw all of their equipment, hoses, and uniforms. After a few pictures with the firefighters, we headed home.

I'm glad that Eric's first service project had that kind of payoff. It made getting him to try other projects a lot easier.