“Thank you for your service and sacrifice.”

A Holidays for Heroes message from a UMD student-athlete.

Our Holidays for Heroes program is an effort to collect handwritten messages on holiday cards to thank and recognize service members and veterans for their service and sacrifice.

This year, the American Red Cross serving Northern Minnesota teamed up with University of Minnesota Duluth student hockey teams to sign cards that will bring holiday joy to the men and women who keep, and have kept, us safe.

UMD Women’s Hockey captain Jalyn Elmes  signs Holidays for Heroes cards.

“It’s a really good way to reach out and show our appreciation to people that we may never get the chance to tell in person. It took less than an hour of our time,” says Jalyn Elmes, captain of the University of Minnesota Duluth, Women’s Hockey team.  Elmes has participated in Holidays for Heroes in the 2018 and 2019 holiday seasons.

Director of the local Red Cross, Dan Williams, has helped facilitate Holidays for Heroes for a number of years. Dan says his favorite part about this proactive effort is reminding service members and veterans that they’re cared about. “We’re not waiting for service members to raise their hand and say ‘I wish the community would show me how much they appreciate us.’”

UMD Men’s Hockey team thanks military veterans.

During the past four years, UMD student-athlete teams have signed around 4,000 cards. Football, women’s volleyball, and men’s and women’s hockey have joined these efforts. The signed cards will be distributed to local military service units and veterans clinics and homes.

Other upcoming activities include blood drives and humanitarian law training through our Red Cross Youth outreach. And getting involved Holidays for Heroes s as easy as bringing holiday cards to your local Red Cross chapter. We’ll do the rest!

Story by Caroline Nelson and photos by Dan Williams, American Red Cross Minnesota Region. Click here to learn more about Red Cross services for military families and veterans.


Eden Prairie Students Lift Military Heroes Hearts

(R to L) Students Shea Brennan, Jenny Leestma, and Bella Wheeler, with regional executive Phil Hansen (far left).
(R to L) Students Shea Brennan, Jenny Leestma, and Bella Wheeler, with Red Cross northern Minnesota regional executive Phil Hansen (far left).

Last fall, two Eden Prairie High School business clubs engaged their entire school in a massive Holiday Mail for Heroes card-signing event for the American Red Cross.

The group, led by seniors Jenny Leestma, Bella Wheeler and Shea Brennan, worked with their principal to distribute blank cards to each homeroom, hang posters and banners throughout the school building, and even created a program where students could sign multiple cards in exchange for required volunteer hours. In the end, the students collected over 1,500 cards for deployed soldiers and veterans and estimated that 1,000 students participated in the project.

After the event, students read through the signed cards to ensure all messages were appropriate. “We saw that [the project] touched the students when we began to read through the cards and saw the amazing thought and effort put into so many of them,” says Jenny Leestma, one of the student leaders of the project. “It was truly a blessing to contribute to such an amazing program!”

Holiday Mail for Heroes is an annual event coordinated by the Red Cross Service to the Armed Forces Department, which supports members of the U.S. Military, its veterans and their families. This past year, people from across the country sent a record number of 2.1 million cards, including the cards from the Eden Prairie High School students.

The American Red Cross also has additional way for groups of youth to get involved with our programs. For more information please visit our website.

Thank you to the students at Eden Prairie High School for enthusiastically participating in Holiday Mail for Heroes, and extra thanks to the DECA/BPA students who worked so hard to make this year’s event a huge success!

Story by Lisa Joyslin, Volunteer Resources Director, American Red Cross Northern Minnesota Region. Photo credit: Lynette Nyman/American Red Cross

Students and seniors sign holiday mail for heroes

Erica Harmsen (l) and Priscilla Miller (r) sign holiday cards American military, Bemidji, Nov. 11, 2013.
Erica Harmsen (l) and Priscilla Miller (r) sign holiday cards for the American Red Cross Holiday Mail for Heroes program, Bemidji, Nov. 11, 2013.

Several TrekNorth High School students joined forces with residents of the WindSong Senior Living Center in Bemidji this past Veterans Day to help write holiday card messages as part of the American Red Cross Holiday Mail for Heroes program.

“I like to include that we’re writing from Bemidji,” Erica Harmsen, the accompanying TrekNorth teacher said to one of the residents. She explained that troops might like seeing where their correspondence is coming from – and that making it more personal is nice, especially with cards being sent overseas.

TrekNorth students and Windsong residents sign holiday cards, Bemidji, Nov. 11, 2013.
TrekNorth students and Windsong residents sign holiday cards, Bemidji, Nov. 11, 2013.

Students and residents had no trouble writing out several cards each. All participants were pleased they will bring a bit of holiday cheer to American veterans, military families and active-duty service members.

This is the second year that TrekNorth has partnered with WindSong to create holiday cards for Holiday Mail for Heroes. WindSong Volunteer Coordinator Alice Stark-Anderson and Senior Services Administrator Linda Barkley helped organize the event.

Lil Humenick (l) and Kassandra Zanter (r) work together on signing holiday cards, Bemidji, Nov. 11, 2013.
Lil Humenick (l) and Kassandra Zanter (r) write holiday cards, Bemidji, Nov. 11, 2013.

American Red Cross North Star Chapter volunteers will convene to write out more cards on November 21. Those interested in participating may contact North Star Chapter Community Coordinator Lynn Arlt at 218-444-9490.

Story and photos by Grace Littlefield, American Red Cross Volunteer 

Saying Thanks to Our Heroes

Holiday Mail for Heroes card signing event at the Mall of America, Bloomington, MN, November 2012.
Holiday Mail for Heroes card signing event at the Mall of America, Bloomington, MN, November 2012.

The Holiday Mail for Heroes program has been a nationwide highlight of the American Red Cross holiday season for the past six years. During that time, the Red Cross has received more than 6.5 million cards of holiday greetings and gratitude from the American public that are distributed at military installations, veterans hospitals, and in other locations around the world, letting military members know that we’re thinking of them and thankful for their service.

This year, the American Red Cross Northern Minnesota Region will support Holiday Mail for Heroes with a card signing event at the Mall of America on Sunday, November 10, from 10AM – 3PM in Nordstrom Court. The signed cards will be collected for screening, sorting, and distribution with more than a million other cards that Americans sign around the country. Thank you to Deluxe Corporation and CenterPoint Energy for sponsoring this event. It will be great for the whole family. We hope that you’ll join us.

If you’re unable to attend, you can still participate in Holiday Mail for Heroes. Click here for card guidelines, mailbox address for signed cards, and program deadline. Call us at (612) 871-7676 and let us know about your group card signing event.

Meanwhile, do you know that throughout the year the American Red Cross provides emergency communications and financial assistance, and deployment services to more than 2 million U.S. service members and many of our nation’s 24 million veterans around the world. Click here to learn more about American Red Cross services for military families.

Caring Enough To Send A Card

The American Red Cross expects to receive and distribute more than one million holiday cards to military veterans and those serving in the armed forces.

Cari McCollor is one of our heroes!

Here in the Twin Cities we’re helping to make this happen with the assistance of Cari McCollor. A veteran who served in the U.S. Army and the National Guard, McCollor understands the importance of sending holiday wishes.

“It’s hard to remember family and friends when you’re sitting somewhere in a field far away from home,” says McCollor. “Getting a card lets the service member know that someone cares enough to write and send a card.”

McCollor expects to distribute holiday mail to approximately 20 sites, ranging from veterans homes and adult day centers to army reserve and national guard units, throughout the greater Minneapolis and St. Paul metropolitan area.

Cards must be postmarked by December 10. Click here to learn more.

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