Prairie Elementary kicked off its 3rd annual Heart of America Stand Down fall toiletry drive with a special Veterans Day Speaker. We were honored to have Robert Waechter, co-founder of the Heart of America Stand Down, come to speak about his military service and his idea to start the Stand Down 25 years ago. Waechter started the event in 1993 with fellow Vietnam veteran Art Filmore in response to the growing number of homeless veterans and "to bring comfort and care to veterans who struggle after returning home" from service. Waechter and Filmore started the Stand Down expecting it to only last about 5 years, but found that there was a much larger need for their cause. According to Waechter, though the overall number of homeless veterans has decreased, the Stand Down has seen an increase in new, younger veterans in need.
This year, the Prairie family collected an astonishing number of toiletries to support over 400 veterans and their families. The top 3 classes with the most toiletries were rewarded with donuts and hot chocolate, plus a visit from Jessy the Comfort Dog. Those classes were Ms. Meyer-Brunk’s first grade class, Ms. DeVault’s third grade class and Ms. Reck’s fourth grade class. Jessy the Comfort Dog, and her handler Jill Kusel, come to the Stand Down every year. I first met Jessy when I was in 3rd grade and have been friends with them ever since.
A few of my fellow Prairie classmates also attended the Stand Down to help pass out toiletries. Many thanks to my good friends, Ilse, Molly and Avie, as well as my family, for getting up early in the morning to help represent the Prairie Community and volunteer at the event. Please see our photo gallery above for highlights from the Stand Down, as well as video from the event. For more information about Jessy the Comfort Dog, please check out our recent blog.