Holiday project comes full circle for Charles Carroll students

For the past four years, students at Charles Carroll Elementary School have sent care packages, including excess Halloween candy, cards, and other items, around the holidays to local military members serving overseas.

This year, the students received a pleasant surprise.

First Lieutenant Ian Sparks' father, Paul, reached out to Charles Carroll staff to thank them for the package after his son posted a photo on Facebook holding up a card from Charles Carroll students.

"It's just amazing that the school is teaching these kids to care for these guys and understand what they're doing," Sparks said. 

Charles Carroll has been sending care packages, which have included candy, cards, letters, toiletries, other items to local military members since 2010, according to Cathy Steffens, whose son is a fifth-grader at Charles Carroll.

Steffens said the project began when she organized students to send a package to her brother, who was serving overseas.

"It's a neat thing," she said. "They [the students] really get into it."

Steffens said the school also mails packages overseas other times throughout the year, such as Valentine's Day.

Over the past four years, 14 local military members, including Sparks, have received a package from Charles Carroll.

Sparks, who is 25 and serving in Afghanistan, was "quite surprised" when he received his package, according to his father.

"Anything like that is just so special," he said.

Liz Perna, the health education teacher at Charles Carroll, said the project coincides with the school's sugar and candy lesson in health class.

"It's not just them collecting candy, it turns into a health lesson," she said.

She added that at least two other elementary schools in the county have a similar project.

Students this year bagged 126 pounds of candy and other items, Steffens said, adding that it was the most ever.

According to Steffens, instead of eating all of the candy, many of the military members give it to the locals in the area in which they are deployed to build relationships with the community.

Perna said the school plans on inviting Sparks to visit with students once he returns from deployment.

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