On Tuesday, December 16, 2014, Randolph-Macon Academy students loaded onto a bus – gifts in-hand ‐ as part of “Operation Thank You.” The project, which brings students, Christmas cheer, music, and gifts to the VA Hospital in Martinsburg, WV, is an extension of R-MA middle school teacher Toby Allanson’s family tradition.
I am trying to teach my seventh grade civics students a sense of community. Students need to learn that the world is much bigger than themselves. There are those out there who have sacrificed for the freedoms that we so often take for granted,” explained Allanson.
R-MA Chorus Director Michael DeMato and six upper school chorus students accompanied the middle school students providing music support.
“The students arrived and started visiting patients in two different wards. Most of these patients were wheeled in as they were not able to get around on their own. We saw about 50 patients downstairs and made sure that each person received a gift and a thank you,” said Allanson.
Allanson added that most of the veterans to whom the students distributed gifts live at the hospital. For some, the R-MA students might be the only visitors that they have this holiday season.
You can almost see the face of seventh grader Alan Williams as he shares his experience, “It was cool to see how the veterans reacted when we came with the blankets and stuff …They were very thankful. Some of them were [excited].”
Yes it’s Christmas and important seasonally, but teacher Allanson sees a huge lesson for his middle schoolers in their service to veterans.
“I liked being able to help them and give them gifts because I know they don’t get a lot of visitors,” said Sarah Ponn, a seventh grade day student from Marshall.
On the connecting generations, Allanson remarked, “All of the students had a great time talking to the veterans and sharing with them. The veterans shook the students’ hands and thanked them over and over. There were some who even shed tears of joy over the fact that the students took time out of their day to come and spend time with them. The feeling was mutual…”