February 1, 2013

Winslow students sending hand-made love to veterans overseas

St. John Catholic School participates in Valentines for Veterans for Catholic School Week

By Ben McCanna bmccanna@centralmaine.com
Staff Writer

WINSLOW -- To celebrate the red, white and blue, students at St. John Catholic School on Thursday focused on red.

click image to enlarge

St. John Catholic School students Parker Hunter, left, and Aidan Veilleux work on Valentines for Veterans at the Winslow school on Thursday.

Staff photo by David Leaming

About 70 students gathered at noon in the school cafeteria to participate in Valentines for Veterans -- a first-ever event where the entire school, kindergarten through sixth grade, created Valentine's Day cards from raw materials -- red construction paper, bright crayons and sticky glue. They also listened to a short presentation by two area veterans who shared experiences from faraway shores.

Valentines for Veterans was just one of a slate of activities scheduled for this week at the small parochial school on South Garand Street for Catholic School Week -- a nationwide annual event during which Catholic schools celebrate the their three main tenets: faith, academics and service, according to Principal Claudette Massey. Earlier this week, the students spent an hour playing board games in classrooms with family members. Today, they will listen to a presentation by Gov. Paul LePage.

Each day of the week has a theme, including parish day, student day and community day. For Thursday, the theme was nation day, and creating Valentine's Day cards was a fitting activity, Massey said.

Fifth-grader Austin Soucy, whose father served in the U.S. Army in Iraq and Afghanistan, said it was important to honor veterans "because they fought for their country and it's the right thing to do to keep your family and your country safe."

Sixth-grader Elissa LaVoie said she planned to incorporate a message of thanks into her card, adding that she valued her freedom.

"Being American, to me, means being free and to be able to do what you want without being micromanaged by one ruler," she said.

First-grade teacher Michelle Labbe, a former military spouse, said she's coordinating with the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 8835 in Winslow to distribute the cards to area veterans.

Earlier, veterans Lee Giroux and Gayle Finkbeiner shared stories of their service with the students. Giroux, 73, of Benton, served with the military for 21 years -- mostly with the Air Force -- and was stationed in Japan, Libya and Vietnam during his career.

Finkbeiner, 67, of Belgrade, served in the Army in West Germany during the Cold War.

He said he appreciated the children's card creations.

"Messages like that -- especially this time of year -- are always welcomed by veterans," he said.


Ben McCanna -- 861-9239

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