ST. GEORGE – Veterans from the Southern Utah Veterans Home joined Washington County students at the Bloomington Wal-Mart Monday evening to participate in the first “Shop With a Veteran” service activity.
The event was a joint collaboration between the veterans home and a student service learning organization known as the World Wide Warriors.
The service group is made up of students from the schools – elementary level and up – that will feed into Snow Canyon High School, said World Wide Warriors leader and assistant principal at Lava Ridge Intermediate School, Greg Bozarth.
The objective of World Wide Warriors is to teach students about local and global humanitarian needs and then to have them come up with a plan for addressing those needs.
“We’re trying to get students … to focus more on service and learning,” Bozarth said. “We believe they come into our schools to learn all kinds of great academic things, and now we are hoping as they go out they will apply those things and serve and be good citizens. So this is just an attempt for our students to get them to serve more and to look outside themselves.”
In the 2015-16 school year, World Wide Warriors raised $10,000, which provided two Bio Sand Filter water wells to help supply fresh water for a village of 71 people in rural Pursat, Cambodia. The group also learned about and implemented ways to address homelessness in Washington County.
This year’s efforts have been focused on veterans and active military personnel by educating the youth on how to help those who are serving and have served the United States. In an effort to learn more about veterans, Bozarth said, the group spent a service week connecting with the veterans who reside at the Southern Utah Veterans Home.
The “Shop With a Veteran” service activity was organized between the two groups to provide Christmas presents for families in need.
Each year during the Christmas season, the veterans at the Southern Utah Veterans Home make a donation to a charity. This year, in conjunction with their partnership with the World Wide Warriors, the veterans decided to use that money to shop for underprivileged children, said Vie Van Noy, director of community relations for the veterans home.
A total of $3,000 was donated, which was used to shop for toys and clothing for nine families nominated by students in the World Wide Warrior program. The presents will reach 27 individual children, Van Noy said.
Lizzie Bryner, a student at Lava Ridge Intermediate School said her family usually participates in a Christmas service project, but she didn’t know if this year they would be able to. As a result, Bryner said she was excited to participate in “Shop With a Veteran” and provide service for others.
For Leona Marck, a 92-year-old World War II veteran, the service project hit close to home. For about 13 years, Marck was a single mother of five children, she said, and remembers Christmases where she would hear her doorbell ring and open her door to find presents for her children on the doorstep.
“Those were bad days,” Marck said, “but they were wonderful.”
Beyond the service the two groups are providing for families in need, the activity also allowed the young students to continue building a connection with the veterans.
Students from six of the nine Snow Canyon feeder schools participated in “Shop With a Veteran,” Bozarth said. Each school had about 3-4 students who were joined by a veteran from the home and an adult adviser. The groups were given a Christmas wish list and were able to shop throughout Wal-Mart to find presents for each child.
“I love it,” Emily Molina, a seventh grader at Lava Ridge Intermediate, said. “I think it’s a great idea that there’s a veteran that’s helping us. So we’re giving other kids presents, but besides that, there’s a veteran that’s helping us, so we’re with them and just enjoying time with them.”
The World Wide Warriors will join the veterans at the Southern Utah Veterans Home next Monday to wrap the presents.
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