After spreading holiday cheer in December to military veterans at the Bath Veterans Administration Medical Center in Steuben County, 11-year-old Sophie Kartzman decided to show the veterans more love this Valentine’s Day.
On Feb. 13, Sophie and American Red Cross Finger Lakes Chapter volunteer Dick Walters distributed about 400 Valentine’s cards to veterans at Bath. The cards were handmade by Sophie and other students in the Horseheads Central School District, residents at Bethany Nursing Home in Horseheads, and children from Jen’s Day Care in Corning.
“Seeing the veterans smile,” Sophie said, “makes me feel like a million dollars.”
Sophie, a sixth-grade student at Horseheads Intermediate School, made headlines around the holidays when she collected about 13,000 holiday cards for active service members and veterans through the Red Cross’ “Holiday Mail for Heroes” program. Those cards were distributed to six overseas Armed Forces units, two U.S. Navy ships, the U.S. Navy submarine base in Groton, Conn., and veterans at the Bath VA. Sophie was part of the Red Cross contingent that delivered the holiday cards at the Bath VA.
Inspired by that experience, Sophie set out to make Valentine’s Day just as special for the veterans. On Jan. 31, she and her friends returned to make cards at Bethany Nursing Home’s Assisted Living Center, where she first visited in November for her “Holiday Mail for Heroes” campaign.
Joining Sophie for the trip to Bethany were students from Horseheads Intermediate and Gardner Road schools (Alexa, Brooke, Cassidy, Emma, Justine and Sarah); Sophie’s “Holiday Mail” partner Anna McCausland; Sophie’s brother, Joshua Kartzman, from Horseheads High School; the children’s parents and grandparents; and Horseheads Central School District Community Information Specialist Susan Pirozzolo.
The group made 100 Valentine’s cards and enjoyed Sophie’s homemade cupcakes. One of the highlights of the trip was a visit with 103-year-old Pearl Sutphen, who entertained the children with stories about her childhood and family. She was particularly pleased with the idea of giving Valentine’s cards to veterans because her two sons both served in World War II.
To collect more Valentine’s cards, Sophie reached out to Jen’s Day Care in Corning, and classrooms at Gardner Road Elementary, Big Flats Elementary and Horseheads Intermediate schools. The cards were filled with heartfelt messages from young people who are just now learning about the importance of the sacrifices the veterans made for our country.
Here are the words to a poem written by the students in Mrs. Michaelle Tillinghast’s second-grade class at Gardner Road School:
To our Heroes,
Happy Valentine's Day
Thank you for all you've done
In our hearts you are #1
You gave up so much in sacrifice
You left your families without thinking twice
We have our freedoms for what you've done
Happy Valentine's Day everyone
Here’s a list of the teachers who participated in the project:
Gardner Road: Mrs. Justine Saunders, Mrs. Maria Springer, Mrs. Heather Swartwood, Mrs. Michaelle Tillinghast and Mrs. Marcy Watson.
Big Flats: Mrs. Danielle Aepelbacher; Mrs. Kim Arnold and Mrs. Andrea Delosa.
The veterans enjoyed receiving the cards and visiting with Sophie, who also left cards on the nightstand for veterans who were sleeping. Sophie and Dick Walters were joined by Sophie’s mother, Denise, and Kristin Klapprodt from Bath VA. Sophie and Dick also distributed pillow cases that were made by students in the Transition to Adult program at Corning-Painted Post High School.
“Thank you for not forgetting us, Sophie,” one veteran said. “Please come back soon.”
Sophie is the daughter of David and Denise Kartzman, of Horseheads. Sophie recently earned a national George Bush Points of Light award for her “Holiday Mail” campaign. Points of Light celebrates people who “inspire, equip and mobilize people to take action to change the world.”
“This precocious changemaker set a goal and rallied her community around a cause to show military members that others are thinking about their sacrifice. That makes Sophie Kartzman a Daily Point of Light,” the Points of Light website states.
For more information about Points of Light, click here.