First grader’s Thanksgiving project results in 500 cards, care packages for U.S. troops

(WRIC/ABC) — A California first grader’s determination to wish U.S. troops a Happy Thanksgiving has resulted in more than 500 letters written by his classmates that will be sent overseas.

“It was kind of surprising,” dad Derik Emmersen of Playa Vista, Calif., told ABC News. “The teachers in Deklan’s class said ‘Just because you’re young, doesn’t mean you can’t make a difference.’”

Emmersen said it was in September when his son, 6-year-old Deklan, got the idea to send letters to troops for the holidays after seeing a TV commercial for “The Wounded Warrior Project.”


The family also has a longtime friend who is a commander in the U.S. Navy, Emmersen said. Deklan feels said whenever he is deployed and away from his loved ones, according to Emmersen said.

“I asked him if he wanted to write a letter or lead [a project],” Emmersen explained. “We had a meeting with his principal and his teacher and I told him that if he wanted to lead it, he had to be the one to present the idea.”

On Oct. 5, Deklan presented his project in an assembly at Playa Vista Elementary School. As a result, Thanksgiving care packages and holiday cards written by 500-plus students will be delivered to “Operation Gratitude,” a non-profit organization that will send the packages directly to deployed U.S. Service Members.

“We’re amazed every single day by people all over the world supporting our troops,” said Chris Clark, vice president of Operation Gratitude. “When we find young people like [Deklan] supporting our troops, that makes it even more special.”
Emmersen said Deklan decided to expand his project by creating the email, where children outside of his school can submit holiday letters to troops overseas.

“I feel good about it,” Deklan said. “I’m excited to see if any of the soldiers respond. If they receive letters, I think the soldiers would be happy.”

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