It has become a holiday tradition at Franklin Elementary School in Oshkosh. The students are creating Holiday Mail for Heroes to show their appreciation to current and former military members during the season of giving.
You can feel the hustle and bustle of the holidays in Marlo Osmond's class. Her fifth grade students are busy drawing festive pictures and writing heartfelt messages to veterans.
"I said, 'Thank you for defending our country. May your heart be filled with holiday spirit. Thank you for serving our country,'" Madyson Klemp read from her card.
Klemp has relatives who served in the Korean war.
"They leave their family to defend us and they saved America."
It's these sacrifices that prompted the American Red Cross in Northeast Wisconsin to begin participating in the Holiday Mail for Heroes program eight years ago.
"We reach out to military families when they're challenged and they have loved ones that are deployed all over the world and need to be connected with their families back home, so this is just another extension really, quite frankly, of our mission to bring people together," said Steve Hansen, Executive Director of the American Red Cross in Northeast Wisconsin.
The Red Cross invites anyone in the community to create a handmade card, and they'll make sure it's delivered to veterans homes, veterans clinics, and military bases across the world.
The fifth graders from Franklin Elementary will visit the veterans home in King to deliver their messages of thanks in person.
"I hope it makes them feel good and that some of them might not have family or know of their family, so I hope they know some people care about them," said fifth grader Kennedy Footat.
Classmate Jacob Stinski added, "I hope that they feel happy that people really care about the sacrifices that they made."
"I think it's really great to spread Christmas cheer," said fifth grader Ben Furcy.
Osmond said it's heartwarming to see the veterans' reactions.
"Just to have the children come and talk to them, and shake their hands, and give them cards makes them very happy," said Osmond.
The students take home something as well from the experience.
"It gives the children a chance to see that giving of their time, and their smiles, and their voices is just as important as actually giving or receiving a gift," said Osmond.
"It's just a great life-long lesson for young people to learn at a very, very early age," added Hansen. "It's magic. It's a perfect program."
The children plan to visit the Wisconsin Veterans Home at King next week to deliver their cards and sing Christmas carols to bring holiday joy to the veterans living there.
The Red Cross said in the past eight years, it has delivered 500,000 holiday cards made by people in Northeast Wisconsin.