By Emily Sorensen
The students at Chaparral Elementary School are giving back to our armed forces this month through their Kids in Action program.
Students between grades one through five who belong to Kids in Action spent a bit of their free time at lunch giving back by writing letters and assembling care packages, called C-Rats (Civilian Ration), for men and women stationed overseas. The C-Rats will be delivered to the overseas soldiers through Operation Interdependence.
“The kids volunteer their time, after eating lunch, for the project of the month,” said Jill Cleveland, the chair of Kids in Action, whose daughter is a member and attends Chaparral Elementary. “We try to support local organizations.”
In this project, the students, by grade, each wrote a letter to include in their C-Rat, from pre-approved and pre-listed topics they could choose to write about, and then assembled a quart-sized plastic bag of treats and grooming items, which will be sent by Operation Interdependence to a soldier overseas. The bags included candy, a granola bar or snack bar, a powdered drink mix (tea, lemonade or cocoa), a package of ramen or a can of sardines, and toiletries like travel-sized shampoos, sunscreen, deodorant, shaving cream, soap and wet wipes.
Kids in Action began life at Chaparral Elementary as Kids Corps, which a donor sponsored at Chaparral for five years. After the funding ran out, the Chaparral Elementary PTA decided last year to keep the program going under a new name and with volunteer help. Between 250 and 300 students participate. Previous projects the students have done include making red bags for Red Ribbon Week, helping with a food drive for the Poway Unified School District’s food bank, making blankets for children with leukemia and assembling sack lunches for Interfaith.
The organization aims to foster caring and social-responsible youth leaders through hands-on activities, which can sometimes be tough on their limited volunteer budget and inability to take the kids off-campus en masse. “That’s the challenge and the creativity part,” said Cleveland, “finding an event for 300 students.” The cost is another issue, though Cleveland said they were lucky to have a very supportive group of parents at Chaparral. “[For the C-Rats], we put out bins for about a week, and the parents donated most of the items.”
Despite having to give up some of their playtime for the project, the students were excited to write the letters and make their bags. “It’s fun,” said second-grader Hope Cleveland. “I like helping out.” Second-grader Daniel Crane agreed, saying, “I want to help the soldiers.”
For some, the project was close to home. Ashlyn Mulder, who is also in second grade, said the project was extra special to her because her stepfather was in the military. “I had a lot of fun [doing the project],” said Mulder. “It’s for the Army.”