A year ago at age 10, Blake Lantz of Monroe City, Mo., began a Christmas project to send signed Christmas cards to hospitalized military veterans.
In 2011, 90 cards were signed by the public and sent to veterans at the Harry S. Truman Memorial Veterans’ Hospital in Columbia, Mo. This year Blake, now a fifth-grader, continued his project with a much higher goal - he hoped to have 675 cards signed and send them to all four veterans hospitals in Missouri.
On Saturday, Dec. 1, Blake and his mom, Dawn, were given an opportunity to set up their card-signing table at Lowe’s store in Hannibal, Mo., where Blake achieved his goal, with 675 cards signed by the end of the day.
Blake greeted everyone entering the store with his question: “Would you like to sign a card for a wounded veteran?”
Asked why he decided to send cards to hospitalized veterans, Blake said, “people care about solders who are overseas and don’t care about the ones here at home. They think that the ones that are in hospitals will be fine.”
No one is asked to make a donation, Dawn said, but some people want to help and donate money, and when they do, the money is spent on more Christmas cards. Boxes of cards also have been donated, Dawn said. Douglass Community Services donated seven boxes of cards.
Some of the people pausing to sign the cards were military veterans or currently serving soldiers. Mark Winner and his wife, Becky, of Pittsfield, Ill., stopped to sign cards. Mark explained he was a U.S. Navy veteran who served during the Vietnam War, although he did not go to Vietnam.
One current soldier who stopped to sign a card was SSgt Dustin Current, a member of the Missouri National Guard in Hannibal.
Blake started his project the day after Thanksgiving, providing cards to be signed in Monroe City and Hannibal that weekend and continuing at Lowe’s in Hannibal on Dec. 1, when he met his goal.
Blake also had a letter on display. It was from the chief of volunteer services at Truman Hospital, thanking him for sending the cards in 2011.
This year, in addition to Truman, cards will go to the John Pershing and Jefferson Barracks divisions of the VA St. Louis Health Care System, Poplar Bluff VA Medical Center and Kansas City VA Medical Center.
On Sunday, Dec. 2, Dawn said they were preparing to mail all the cards to the four hospitals.