By REBECCA WEBSTER
Recorder News Staff
It was brisk morning Saturday, but the third graders at Fonda-Fultonville Elementary were still excited to give back to their community.
It was their class bottle drive and as locals residents and friends showed up with bags upon bags of bottles, the students beamed, knowing it would go to a good cause.
"We as a school, have decided that every year each grade level has to have a community service project," said third grade teacher Sharon Kline. "This year, we thought it would be a good idea that in the month of November we honored our veterans in some way."
And that's just what they did.
The proceeds from every 5-cent bottle that the students earned will go to benefit the Honor Flight.
"Honor Flight is where they fly (veterans) to the memorials in Washington, D.C.," said third-grader Marissa Thompson.
The students were working for the past few weeks to rally support from their peers. They created flyers and distributed them to the classrooms, colored paper stars and helped put together a Wall of Honor in their school’s main entrance to remember the veterans each day.
And a few even spoke at an assembly to the school this week about their fundraiser and piece of community service.
Ryan More, also a third grader at Fonda Fultonville, said that he was excited to do the fundraiser because helping veterans is important.
"Some of the veterans have never seen the memorials that have been made for them," he said.
Honor Flight, which has a local chapter in Canajoharie, sends veterans on a free trip to Washington, D.C. and the money that the Fonda-Fultonville students raised will go to benefit the trip of a chaperone, who goes to accompany a veteran and make sure they can easily move from memorial to memorial.
Amy Mulyca, a third grade teacher at the school, said her father had at one time been a chaperone for the trip for his father-in-law and "it made his life" that to be able to attend.
"We brought that idea back to the kids that we could do a bottle drive to raise money to sponsor someone to participate in Honor Flight," she said.
Mulyca said the veterans are brought by limousine to Albany International Airport where family and friends greet them.
"It's like the heroes welcome that many of them never got," she explained.
And when they finish touring the D.C. memorials, they do a mail call, just like they did during the war.
Families write letter and the veterans are inundated with them, she said.
“If you talk to anyone who’s done it, it’s just a highlight."
Mulyca said the students were incredibly receptive to the idea.
"When we talked to the kids about it, they were very excited about it. And this is a school that really supports their community."
Third-grader Shey Sanges, whose great-grandfather is a veteran, said it was pretty exciting to do the fundraiser for such a good cause.
"I think it's pretty good for kids to learn about veterans," she said. "They served our country and they've done good."
"I think it's a good idea because you can help veterans in need."
The purpose of having each grade do community service is for them to understand the importance of giving back to the community, said Thomas Ciaccio, principal at Fonda-Fultonville Elementary.
"This is an example of what our school community is about," Ciaccio said. "I see this as a microcosm of the greater community. This just shows that at home, these kids are being taught the value of giving back and helping out the community."
Seeing them there on a brisk, early Saturday morning, made him recognize that the modeling and the values have stuck, even at eight years old, he said.
"We're very proud of them."
Thompson said she was just excited to be able to help the veterans who need it.
"They work to serve our country," the 8-year-old said, "and we should serve back."