When East librarian, Heidi Blais took her own daughters to a Girl Scout program this past August, that featured a program called Project Rudolph, she knew immediately she wanted to bring the program to her students at Cranston East this school year.
Project Rudolph is a non-profit 50(c)3 organization run by couple Ray and Cheri Archibald out of their home in Oakley, Idaho.
Started in 2006, they have shipped more than 50,000 gift bags. Each hand-decorated paper lunch bag is packed with a flat ornament, a candy cane, a copy of the poem A Soldier’s Christmas, and handwritten letters. The bags have been sent to soldiers in Europe, the Middle East, North Africa, and Korea. In 2015, 8,400 gift bags were mailed.
Blais was thrilled with the turnout of students.
“We had so many kids turn out for the two-day project. Over 70 students in total. They worked so hard, and really were focused on doing a great job,” she said.
Even though it’s not Thanksgiving, Blais knew she had to get this done in order to get everything shipped to Idaho in time.
“We decorated 80 bags, wrote 90 notes/cards/letters. This is such a simple, wonderful thing we all can do to make a difference,” she said.
Sophomore Rose Espinal was happy to be part of the project.
“The soldiers are going through tough times. As a JROTC cadet, I wanted to send them words of motivation and support,” she said.
Fellow JROTC Cadet, Meghan Bourassa, a freshman who has plans to join the navy after graduation, and is third generation military, would hope that when she is serving other students would step up and do the same thing.
“Our soldiers deserve this. They are serving our country, it is the least we can do to show our thanks,” she said.
Camden Haid, a freshman wanted to get involved because she understands it must be hard for the soldiers to be away from their families.
“They miss their families already, and it must be so much harder during the holidays. I hope seeing all the letters and cards and knowing how much we appreciate what they are doing makes their days a little brighter,” she said.
Senior Aden Duffy personally feels a connection to this project.
“I come from a military family, and I know what it is like for soldiers to be separated from their families. I know this project will mean a lot to them,” she said.
Emily Santiago wanted to get involved to help spread good cheer.
“The soldiers need to know that we remember them, we appreciate them and want to send some love from back home. It made me feel good to be a part of this,” she said.
East Principal, Sean Kelly was not surprised when he heard about the project.
“The reputation our school has for stepping up and giving back to those who deserve it most, is unmatched. Mrs. Blais deserves lots of credit for organizing the project. Our students, faculty, staff and community care, it is that simple,” he said.
While this is the first year Blais and Cranston East have been involved with the program, she is planning to make this an annual event.
To learn all about Project Rudolph, visit their website, www.projectrudolph.us.