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Simple holiday messages

Local fifth-grade student sends thousands of letters to troops

Posted: December 24, 2008 4:08 p.m.
Updated: December 25, 2008 4:59 a.m.

Emily Hood, 10, works on Christmas cards for U.S. troops deployed around the world. This year, she wrote and sent 1,508 cards. It was the second year in a row she undertook the project.

Emily Hood's message in her hand-made holiday cards she sends to U.S. troops in Iraq is only a few words:

"Thank you for serving our country."

"God bless you."

"Merry Christmas."

Some of the messages she wrote in the holiday cards were accompanied by bunches of smiley faces or drawings.

But to 10-year-old Emily and her parents, each card serves as a way to show appreciation and support for the dedication of U.S. soldiers serving in Iraq.

"They truly deserve our support," said Emily's father, Tom Hood. "And they absolutely appreciate it."

Emily recently finished sending candy canes and 1,508 holiday cards to Army and Marines units overseas.

While Christmas is one day a year, Emily's efforts took days, weeks and months.

Much of the money for the holiday cards came from Emily's recycling money.

Her grandmother offered to donate cards while Emily found bargains at after-Christmas sale prices at local stores.

Emily, a fifth-grader, soon found herself recruiting her 7-year-old sister, Katie, and her 32 Rosedell Elementary School classmates to help write the cards to meet her initial goal of sending 1,000.

Emily took the cards everywhere.

Emily parked in front of the television with a box of cards by her side.

Even after bedtime, she snuck into their Saugus home's playroom and worked on decorating the cards.

"I think I just like the challenge," Emily said.

Emily's parents recognize her determined attitude.

"It's almost infectious when she has her girlfriends over and she has a box out," said her mother, Rita Hood. "It ends up being a cumulative effort."

This year, Adopt a U.S. Soldier provided names of four officers of Army and Marines units.

The nonprofit organization recently awarded Emily a certificate thanking her for sending so many cards.

"I was really excited," she said about the certificate and phone call from the organization's leader.

Emily's holiday cards project began in 2007 as part of a volunteer program through the Children of the American Revolution.

She soon realized that mailing cards to soldiers serving overseas was something she could do on her own.

"That's easy - I can do that," Emily remembers thinking.

Through the help of her Rosedell classmates and a supportive teacher, she sent 368 holiday cards to the troops for 2007's Christmas.

All the cards went to Iraq, with one bunch going to an Army unit while another arrived at a Marine unit.

Emily received two cards back from the troops offering their thanks and support for her efforts.

"I really like when they respond," Emily said, adding that it makes her feel "great."

While many are still scrambling to buy presents and decorate for this year's Christmas, Emily already has plans for 2009.

She wants to send 2,000 or 3,000 cards for the troops.


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