Willard Grizzell Middle School students have been working since January to raise the money necessary to send World War II and Korean War veterans to Washington, D.C., in May.

Willard Grizzell Middle School students have been working since January to raise the money necessary to send World War II and Korean War veterans to Washington, D.C., in May.

Students have raised about $25,000, and the goal is to get to $30,000, social studies teacher Shawn Kaeser said. With funding collected so far, 45-55 veterans can make the trip to D.C.

This is the second time Grizzell students have worked with Honor Flight Columbus.

In 2014, eighth-graders raised more than $24,000 to send about 40 veterans to D.C., Kaeser said. Those students were inspired to raise funds when they met World War II veterans during a D.C. trip in fall 2013.

This year's class of eighth-graders were motivated in the same way when they met veterans during their own D.C. trip, Kaeser said. This time around, they wanted to raise even more money.

"It actually became a schoolwide initiative," Kaeser said.

The Honor Flight is scheduled for May 14. In preparation for that, students have embarked on a variety of fundraising projects, including a special dance and a pajama day, Kaeser said.

They've also written to businesses asking for donations.

Students have also had a chance to interact with a handful of local veterans, who visited with students in the school's library, Kaeser said.

Kaeser said the students understand their window of time to interact with World War II veterans is short.

"Our time with these veterans is closing fast," he said.

Jim Downing, president of the board for Honor Flight Columbus, said he is thankful for the Grizzell students' fundraising efforts.

Downing and his wife, Kay, are operations directors for the organization.

During their one-day trip to D.C., the veterans are often greeted by total strangers and asked to pose for pictures, Downing said.

"The guys and gals get the thanks that they deserve," he said.

The trips also offer a unique experience for veterans because they are surrounded by comrades with similar experiences, he said.

Sometimes the veterans get home from the trip and share stories for the first time with their families.

"It's not as painful as it was," Downing said.