For some people, Christmas is about brightening another’s life. One young man taking that objective to heart is 10-year-old Blake Lantz of Monroe City, who in recent weeks has been leading a campaign to collect signed Christmas cards to be sent to hospitalized veterans in Columbia.
Dawn Fortner, who has been Blake’s guardian since he was an infant, mentioned a similar campaign she had read about on Facebook that was underway to encourage wounded veterans in Washington, D.C. Blake took the initiative to do something similar.
“We went to the store and he snuck his own money and bought almost 100 Christmas cards,” said Fortner, who was recruited to help with the project after Blake cut his tongue licking an envelope. “I’m not supposed to know about all of it.”
Blake sought out people to sign the cards he had purchased.
“He went door to door,” said Fortner. “He went to neighbors, down to the commodity center and asked people there to sign them. I know some have written notes to them.”
Fortner made a small sign to help Blake explain his project.
“He gets so anxious and excited when he talks to people about what he’s doing,” she said.
According to Blake, he had no trouble finding people willing to sign a card for a wounded vet.
“A lot of them just said, ‘Sure ... yeah,’ and told me and my momma that some of them had relatives that are serving (in the armed forces). Some of them have even been in (the military) themselves,” he said.
Blake admits he’d like to have even more cards ready to drop in the mail on Friday, Dec. 16.
“Our goal was to get 123. We didn’t really reach that goal, but I do know that we did get 83,” he said.
The signed cards will be mailed to the Harry S Truman Memorial Veterans Hospital. Blake believes the veterans will appreciate receiving the well wishes from Monroe City residents, even if they are strangers.
“I don’t really think they care where the cards come from, but I think they will feel great to know somebody cares for them,” said Blake.
Blake’s assessment of the veterans’ reaction is right on target, according to Stephen Gaither, public affairs officer for the facility.
“Those patients that get a card are usually touched by people remembering and thanking them for the service and sacrifice they’ve given for the nation,” he said.
While it is not uncommon for cards to be mailed to VA hospitals around holidays, Gaither says it is heartwarming to see one so young reaching out to veterans at Christmas.
Page 2 of 2 - “Different schools will get involved and church groups, but it’s even more unique that that young man took the initiative to do something like this,” he said.
Blake admits he feels good about having undertaken this outreach.
“I don’t really know what makes me feel good about what I’ve done, I just know that I do feel good about what I’ve done,” he said.
That good feeling is called the Christmas spirit.