South Carolina schoolchildren send soldiers bits of home

ROCK HILL, S.C. _ Afghanistan is on the other side of the world. Every American military person there is away from home and families for the holidays. No way to make a trip to the corner store for candy or a package of crackers. Some have no cards from a child to put next to the bed at night. So students at the Children's School at Sylvia Circle again this year will send a little bit of home to the fighting men and women at war.

What these kids do is called, simply and elegantly, "Dear Soldier."

More than 350 students at the Montessori school _ the entire student body _ send stuff by shoebox. Hundreds and hundreds of shoeboxes. All the stuff they send, from powdered apple cider to Tootsie Pops, is donated by the children and their families. All done so that a soldier these children will never meet isn't so homesick.

The program, now in its 10th year, began with art teacher Laura Ashe, whose brother was stationed in Saudi Arabia even before the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"We found out that so many soldiers didn't get anything at all, so we just decided that we would do all we could to send as much as we could," Ashe said.

That first set of boxes started a tradition that has grown into something that covers Ashe's entire classroom during November. The Rock Hill High Beta Club, an honors group, is in on the gig this year, and will send more than 100 boxes.

The goods have gone in past years to different places in the Middle East where soldiers are stationed: This year all the stuff is headed to a hospital in Afghanistan that serves soldiers and civilians including children, and a cavalry unit.

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