Oshkosh students make a special holiday delivery to the King veterans home

OSHKOSH, Wis. - Military veteran Gary Mader felt like a kid again as he sang Christmas carols last week with fifth graders from Franklin Elementary School in Oshkosh. 

"One of the kids came up to me and gave me a big hug. That really felt great," he explained.

Every December, the children create holiday cards in their classrooms and then hand deliver them to the men and women who live at the Wisconsin Veterans Home at King.

"I hope that these cards kind of cheer them up if they can't visit their family, so that they have something to put in their rooms and to decorate with," said fifth grader Addisyn Liptow.

Veteran Steve Borre added, "It's nice that they did that, because I miss my grandchildren. It's nice to see the kids come here."

It's all part of the Holiday Mail for Heroes program that's organized by the American Red Cross. 

"You know anytime that you can connect older folks with younger people, that's just a perfect combination of really the warmth and the joy that the holiday season brings," said Steve Hansen, Executive Director of the Northeast Wisconsin Red Cross chapter.

The students consider the visit their own tour of duty. They shake the veterans' hands and express gratitude for their sacrifice and service.

"A lot of people don't really thank us you know, and they just take us for granted, but when they come up here they do. They thank us a lot," said Borre.

Liptow and her classmates took great care and thought when they designed their cards and picked the right words to convey their feelings. Mader reads every greeting and treats them like treasure.

"I'm going to keep them and put them in a special envelope so I don't lose them," he said.

Borre hopes the students learn one thing from this experience.

"That we're proud of what we did in some respects. We're proud. We can hang our head high, and they should be able to learn to do that too."

Connor Wisneski said he got an extra boost after visiting the vets.

"Made me feel really good about myself that I could give stuff to the veterans."

The Red Cross estimates that Northeast Wisconsin has given out about 500,000 holiday cards in the past eight years. They deliver them to military bases across the world, veterans clinics, and veterans homes, like the one at King that houses 600 vets.

Mader said, "I love helping people, and I'm glad to see somebody turn around and help me a little bit." 













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