A group of Waggoner Road Middle School students in Reynoldsburg hope to raise at least $5,000 to repair a drummer boy statue that is missing a hand and both drumsticks.
They are well on their way, thanks to help from a museum in Georgia and press coverage that has brought in donations from as far away as New York.
The 110-year-old statue is part of the Ohio State Monument at Missionary Ridge at the Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park in Tennessee. The young boy depicted in stone is not much older than the fifth-graders.
"We want to fix the monument, but it's not just to repair it, it's for our veterans and for all the people of Ohio," said Elayne Duchesne, a fifth-grader in Derek Hinkle's class. "Our entire team is doing amazing."
Student Kira Young said she is impressed by how the whole class has worked together on the project.
"Working on the monument restoration has been a great source of inspiration," she said.
Hinkle said he visited the Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park with his own children three years ago and discovered the Ohio monument.
"The monument is dedicated to all Ohio soldiers who stormed Missionary Ridge in the fall of 1863," he said. "On the monument stands a drummer boy with a badly damaged hand."
In the battle of Chickamauga in 1863, the 98th Regiment of Ohio Volunteer Infantry lost about one-quarter of its men. The regiment's remaining troops joined the 14th Corps and took part in Gen. William T. Sherman's successful assault on Missionary Ridge, Hinkle said.
The Ohio monument features three life-sized granite figures on three sides, representing infantry, artillery and cavalry, with the drummer boy -- usually the youngest person in a unit -- on the fourth side.
According to the National Parks Service, repairing the statue will cost about $5,000.
Hinkle talked about the trip and the statue in class and his students decided in late January to start raising money to fix the drummer boy.
"We have raised close to $3,000," he said. "Our goal is to raise the entire $5,000 by the end of March, in hopes we can begin raising money to go on a trip to visit the monument Memorial Day weekend to hold a rededication ceremony.
"The Bandy Museum of Dalton, Ga., has requested to set up a travel fund for our students to make the trip down South and has personally invited us to their museum," he said.
The fundraising effort got a head start when a story about the students' project appeared in a Chattanooga newspaper, then was picked up by the Associated Press. Hinkle said nearly half of money donated for the project has come from people who have read those stories.
He said the class is collaborating with the National Parks Service and the Friends of the Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park to restore the monument.
The project has been a great learning experience for Hinkle's fifth-graders.
"When I look at my students and see them calling VFWs, American Legions and businesses around the state, mailing countless fliers, pinpointing where our story has been shared around the country and writing numerous thank-you cards, writing itineraries and creating a rededication ceremony completely on their own -- these skills are irreplaceable," Hinkle said.
He said the project has allowed the students to learn skills they will need for work in a global economy, not to mention facts about the Civil War and geography.
"Most importantly, we've made a pact that it all boils down to paying homage to our veterans," he said. "Without their sacrifices, we would not be able to do things like this today. That is the bottom line: giving them the respect they deserve.
"It's been a humbling experience to receive donations as far away as New York City," he said.
Contributions to the project can be made online at friendsofchch.org or by sending checks to Friends of Chickamauga & Chattanooga National Military Park, P.O. Box 748, Chattanooga, Tenn. 37401.