Students in Lisa Ellis' class at Oakwood Elementary School raise $200 for Warriors' Best Friend program to help shelter animals, veterans

Fourth grade students from Lisa Ellis' Oakwood Elementary School class accomplished their goal to help veterans and shelter animals at the same time, raising $200 for the Warriors' Best Friend program with a hot cocoa stand at County Market on Monday, Dec. 21.

Ellis pointed to several photos surrounded by stars on her classroom wall entitled “Our Heroes Don't Wear Capes”. Each day, she shares with her students that real heroes are the service men and women who serve their country. Several students' grandparents and great-grandparents are pictured on the wall of heroes, along with Ellis' nephew, Bobby Ellis III; niece, Bridget Ellis; her late Sunday School teacher, Nolan “Berdell” Morriss; and his son, Jeff Morriss. Ellis and her students found a Scholastic News magazine article featuring a way to give back to veterans and shelter animals — Warriors' Best Friend, which also reflected one of Stephen Covey's seven habits of highly effective people: “Think Win-Win.”

The Liberty-based Warriors' Best Friend program trains shelter dogs for their role as a service animal for a veteran. The students read about U.S. Army veteran Sasha Waldrop-Beard and U.S. Navy veteran Joe Worley, learning how service animals helped them with various tasks.

Service dogs assist veterans in many ways, like helping them maintain balance if they have a broken arm or leg, opening doors and offering assistance with walking down stairs, said Rylan Turner.

“Whenever you help the dogs, you're helping them get out of the shelter, and whenever you're helping the veterans, that helps them get a service dog,” he said. Classmate Andrew Sanders agreed.

“It makes me feel good inside, because we get to help out not only the dogs, but the veterans,” Andrew Sanders said.

Ellis commended the staff and management at Hannibal County Market, who welcomed the students inside to set up their hot cocoa stand and announced their fundraising efforts over the store intercom.

Heidi Mundle said her favorite part of helping out was “seeing people happy that we're doing it.”

Mackenzie Livesay remembered how everything progressed from first discussing the idea to witnessing the results from their hot cocoa stand.

“At the beginning, we were like, 'Should we do it, or should we not do it,'” she said. “And now we're looking back, and we're glad we did it, because a lot of veterans need service dogs, and we're glad that we could help them.”

Fellow student Christian Berry said the results surpassed his expectations.

“It was a big surprise because I didn't know they were going to raise that much money,” he said.

As the students look back on the impact they made, Ellis makes sure they think about America's heroes.

One wall in Ellis' classroom is decorated with an All-American Math Race with columns of red, white and blue stars charting each students testing progress. Each morning after the school-wide Pledge of Allegiance, the students sing the National Anthem along with the recording of a famous singer.

“I'm trying to teach them that heroes are not Spider-Man and Superman — those are not real,” Ellis said. “These are the people that we need to look at as our heroes, because they're giving up everything to help us have the freedoms that we have.”

To learn more about the Warriors' Best Friend program, visit warriorsbestfriend.org or call (816) 429-6305.

trevor.mcdonald@courierpost.com