Eighth-graders at Grizzell Middle School will soon finish their Honor Flight fundraiser $5,000 above their goal.
After talking to veterans on a fall trip to Washington, D.C., eighth-graders decided to raise $15,000 to help Columbus Honor Flight send veterans and their caretakers to tour monuments in Washington at no cost.
Grizzell social studies teacher and fundraiser head organizer Shawn Kaeser is expecting to give the May 17 Honor Flight trip $20,000.
"We started off with a lofty goal," Kaeser said.
"The kids did simple things like rake leaves," he said.
"Every eighth-grader wrote a business and asked for money."
As word about the project got out, checks were also sent to the school from throughout central Ohio, Kaeser said.
"We got a letter from a widow of a (World War II) vet," he said.
"We have a whole box of letters from people who are related to Honor Flight."
Thirteen ambassadors chosen to lead the fundraising also thought of other ways for the entire school to get involved.
"We did a bake sale (and) candy-grams," Savannah Heinlen said. "We did a pajama day. We had a Chipotle day and that was a big hit."
At first raising $15,000 seemed daunting, but students got creative.
"When it was first announced I didn't see a lot of enthusiasm," Michelle Silva said.
"No one was very enthused so we did more interesting things like pajama day and Chipotle.
"Once we started writing to businesses, I knew we'd hit it."
The students plan to hand a $20,000 check over to Columbus Honor Flight at a May 2 assembly.
"They were willing to risk their lives and spend time away from their families for our freedom," Adam McCarty said, adding that a family member was in the Vietnam War. "It feels like their peers never really thanked them, so this means a lot."
Eighth-graders and the rest of the school plan to say thanks to veterans during the May 2 assembly.
In addition to giving a check to Columbus Honor Flight, patriotic music and a video are planned.
"We want to open it to any local veterans to come and be a part of it," Kaeser said.
"The PTO will provide lunch for all the veterans. This will be a celebration of their sacrifice."
The May 2 assembly is open to all veterans and will run from 10 to 11 a.m. with lunch to follow.
To RSVP for the assembly, veterans can send an email to Kaeser at kaeser_shawn@ dublinschools.net. Kaeser can also be contacted about how to make a donation to the eighth-grade's Honor Flight fundraiser.