The efforts of some special needs students at Sam Rayburn High School brought smiles to the faces of troops stationed thousands of miles away.
Sam Rayburn special education teacher Bonnie Tipton initiated a donation drive for goods such as bar soap, laundry detergent and other sanitary items after receiving a letter from her brother overseas, which stated how badly the U.S. troops needed such items. Tipton's fellow teachers Carol Vance and Marsha Hancock then became involved in the effort.
The school's special needs students helped donate and packaged the different supplies. Rayburn's students, along with residents in Clear Lake Shores, Lomax Elementary students and Deer Park Girl Scout Troop 8561 were able to ship 72 boxes full of items to troops in Kandahar, Afghanistan.
The packages were sent out over the Christmas holidays and Tipton is still receiving "thank you" letters from the troops for the efforts of all involved.
Tipton said her favorite letter arrive recently from U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Fatima Mascarina.
"The care packages have boosted the soldiers' morale, without a doubt," she writes. "We don't have very much in terms of conveniences, and for those soldiers that have to go on missions for one week up to one month at a time out in the boondocks, they have to live on care package supplies."
Mascarina continued, "If it has ever crossed anyone's mind whether the care packages were 'enough' or contained what soldiers needed most, I assure you we feel quite pampered! We appreciate all the trouble that you went through to sustain us and remind us we are valued."
Care packages of candy and crayons were also donated for the Afghan children. In delivering the items to the children, Mascarina said, "seeing the smiles on their faces was the best feeling in the world."
Tipton said she is overwhelmed by the letters of gratitude from the troops. "As I read through their letters, it is the little things to them that mean so much," she said. "Our soldiers do so much for us - and if we can do something to help make their days brighter - it is the least we can do."