HOLYOKE – State Sen. John C, Velis delivered more than 500 letters from students to the Soldiers’ Home at Holyoke Monday. The letters are in celebration of Veterans Day and will be distributed Wednesday to residents at the Home and veterans at Holyoke Medical Center.
Velis said the initiative exceeded even his own expectations.
“This really started out as a very thoughtful idea by one of my staffers, Caitlyn Letourneau. We thought it would be nice for the residents at the Home to have some letters from students to read on Veterans Day, so we started reaching out to schools in my district,” said Velis. “And then it just really took off. Considering Veterans Day won’t be celebrated in person this year, I’m glad we were able to get creative and show our appreciation in another way.”
More than a dozen different school districts participated in the initiative, including in Westfield, Chicopee, Southwick and Easthampton. Most of these schools had multiple grades and classes participating, including the Munger Hill School in Westfield and Woodland School in Southwick. The letters ranged in style, with some students writing longer pieces and others electing to utilize their artistic talents instead. Velis noted that this project ended up turning into a learning opportunity for many of the participating students.
“To think that 500-600 students across the district have learned the importance of honoring our veterans and thought about how their service has impacted all of us: that’s a success right there,” said Velis. “We have letters from elementary schools all the way up to high schools, and it has just been phenomenal to help facilitate this.”
Velis is a veteran and major in the Army Reserves and stressed how much these letters will mean to the residents at the Home. “The veterans at the Home are some of the most selfless and caring people I have ever met. It really warms my heart to think of them opening these letters and seeing how much local students appreciate them and all they have done for our country,” said Velis. “I know they will be smiling as they read them, and while COVID-19 might prevent us from honoring Veterans Day as usual, it’s great that so many students jumped at this opportunity.”