Friday, March 12, 2010

Schools and Scouts FAQ

Our heroes love getting cards and letters from young people! Their pure and heartfelt messages—and their spelling of "solgers"—encourage everyone to smile!

"AnyHero" cards, letters, and drawings are a wonderful activity to teach the importance of saying thank-you, the value of honoring service to our country, and the kindness of sharing their heart with someone else far from home. It's is a great activity for classrooms, scout troops, Sunday schools—or keeping little fingers busy while Mom makes cards for our heroes to write home on.

What's the best way to get children involved?
Service members’ preference is to keep these cards and display them in their living spaces, so we recommend AnyHero cards and drawings rather than having children making blank cards to write home on.

Do you have coloring pages?
Click here to download our OWH 9-page pdf with lots of options to print out for your kids. There are also many free patriotic coloring pages all over the web; here are a bunch we've found:

Will the service members write back to the children?
Maybe. There are no guarantees that service members will write back, but some love to do that for children. If a school or scout troop would like the possibility of a reply, write the school or an adult’s address on the cards or letters. The address can be written on each card/letter, or printed on a label and placed on each one. (NEVER put the child’s home address on any letters, unless you are the parent of that child and approve giving out your own child's information.)

Should children sign their letters?
For their protection, first name only, and age, optionally hometown.

Are there any restrictions for kids' art?
No glitter, and no violent imagery; everything they make should be smaller than or fold down smaller than 8.5 x 11. Our shippers read all letters to screen out things that are inappropriate ("I hope you don't die" is a sentiment we see often; though true, it's not good to send to a hero.) Art can be a 3d piece like this crazy-cool alligator, as long as it folds down flat. Otherwise—anything goes!

New at working with kids?  
Step by step: Making AnyHero cards and letters with children

Gather supplies ahead of time:
  1. For cards: prepare cardstock by cutting to 8.5 x 5.5 and pre-folding. (This allows 2 cards from a standard letter-sized piece of cardstock.)
  2. For letters: provide lined paper or blank copier paper, or use some coloring pages listed above.
  3. For paintings or drawings: finished size should be no larger than 8.5 x 11 - or it should fold down to smaller than that size.
  4. Art supplies: Do not use glitter. Kids can use pencils, crayons, markers, stickers, paints, rubberstamps, foamies - kids get creative with any materials!
  5. Safeguard tables and floors from messes!

Prepare the children for what they’ll be doing:
  1. Talk with them about a soldier’s life in terms they can understand: they’re far from their families for a long time, and they love to know they’re not forgotten and that we’re thankful for them.
  2. Ask the children to think about what they’re free to do because of what our heroes do - they are safe, they go to school, they live with their families, they have a great future ahead of them, and they don’t have to be scared.
  3. Help out little ones - Some leaders write a sentence on a chalkboard to help little ones with words and spelling; some will write a list of the hard-to-spell words and the children can write their own letters with that help.

Guide them as they create and write.
  1. Positive messages are best - thank you, we appreciate you, come home safe.
  2. Avoid violent war imagery. Little boys especially like to draw tanks, soldiers, and guns; some of this imagery is loved by deployed heroes, however please avoid bloody scenes, drawings of dead bodies, guns pointed at people, shooting. Keep it upbeat!
  3. If making get well cards for injured heroes, please do not let the children draw any guns, tanks, or helicopters. Wounded warriors do not need to be reminded of what they’ve just been through.
  4. Suggested things to draw:
    Patriotic imagery—flags, stars, statue of liberty, Americana
    drawings of home—the child’s family, home, school, or neighborhood
    hobbies and activities they like, anything from daily life
  5. Have children sign their work. First name only, and age (optional: hometown)
  6. Send packets of AnyHero cards and letters to any of our shippers. Please be aware that cards for any holiday should be postmarked at least 4 weeks prior to that holiday (visit the Mailroom for current deadlines); this allows time for the shippers to have them packed into our regular boxes of blank cards and mailed to the hero contacts. Seasonal cards received past posted deadlines will be saved for the following year. 
Can my kids do other things with OWH as a service project?
Yes! Utilise the talents and goals your children already have—your group may be able to meet another badge requirement or fulfill a service goal, while raising monies to sponsor shipments to our service members! Combine activities that the children already like to do, and teach them the value of community service at the same time. Some suggestions:
  • A car wash could generate funds to cover the children’s craft supplies for their AnyHero letters.
  • A bake sale can meet a scout badge requirement while covering your group’s shipping costs to mail their cards to OWH.
  • Any fundraising project can raise funds to help OWH mail boxes to our heroes! We can provide a thank-you certificate at your request.
  • Hold a community cardsigning!
Where do I send the letters when they're finished?
Send them to any of our shippers listed in The Mailroom on our site. We can use letters anytime—we mail boxes every week, and put 20-30 letters into each one!

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