Sophie Kartzman, a 12-year-old elementary school student from Corning, likes to think big and dream big.
When she heard about the American Red Cross’ “Holiday Mail for Heroes” program last year, Sophie and a friend made 250 holiday cards for service members and veterans who were separated from their families during the holiday season.
This year, Sophie set a goal of collecting 1,000 cards. She started with her art class at Horseheads Intermediate School with a campaign kickoff attended by New York State Rep. Tom Reed (23rd District) and New York State Assemblyman Phil Palmesano (132nd District). More than 60 organizations and schools, some as far away as Long Island, N.Y. and Cape Coral, Fla., contributed to Sophie’s project by making cards.
Read a letter to Sophie from a Cape Coral resident who visited Corning and read an article about Sophie's project in the Elmira Star-Gazette.
Sophie quickly collected 1,000 cards and raised her goal several times, eventually increasing it to 10,000. She went 3,000 better as she collected around 13,000 Holiday Mail cards! About 10,000 cards went oversees to two U.S. Navy ships, the USS Carl Vinson and USS Iwo Jima, and six deployed Armed Forces units. The UPS Store in Corning generously donated the delivery of 24 boxes of cards to the troops overseas.
Cards were also sent to the U.S. Navy submarine base in Groton, Conn. Joel Robinson, Community Executive of the American Red Cross Finger Lakes Chapter, has a daughter whose fiancé is stationed in Groton, and he came to Corning to pick up about 2,000 cards.
Sophie, her father, David, and a team of Red Cross volunteers joined Santa to deliver “Holiday Mail for Heroes” cards to veterans at the Bath Veterans Administration Medical Center in Steuben County.
“It is a lot of fun setting goals and making cards, but what an important lesson to come face-to-face with the people receiving the cards,” said Denise Kartzman, Sophie’s mother. “Thank you once again for allowing Sophie and our family to be part of this great experience. She has set her goal for 15,000 cards for next year!”
The 2014 Holiday Mail for Heroes program had a different look this year, as cards were collected and distributed by local Red Cross chapters. In the past, cards were sent to a national Holiday Mail for Heroes P.O. Box before distribution. Thanks to Sophie and other caring individuals from throughout the Western & Central New York Region, the Red Cross was able to collect and distribute about 26,000 cards to the members of the military, veterans and their families in the communities throughout the region’s 26 counties.
“We can’t thank Sophie enough for her efforts with this program because these heartfelt messages are such a powerful way to thank our military members and veterans,” said James Love, Director of Military Programs & International Services for the region. “And imagine being a veteran and personally receiving a card from a 12-year-old who appreciates what you have done for our country – what a wonderful holiday gift!”
In the Photos:
UPS employees, from left to right, Heather Decker, Joyce Smith and Dan Wilson, with the boxes of Holiday Mail for Heroes cards for the troops overseas.
Sophie Kartzman with one of the veterans at the Bath VA Medical Center.
Sophie with the team of Red Cross volunteers and staff who delivered the Holiday Mail for Heroes cards at the Bath VA Medical Center.