In June 2008 an EF-3 tornado devastated the Little Sioux Scout Ranch in Little Sioux, Iowa. Four boy scouts were killed, including 14-year-old Aaron Eilerts. In honor of Aaron's memory, The Aaron Eilerts Day of Service and Giving was established by former Governor Chet Culver in 2009 to engage students across the state of Iowa in hands-on service projects that celebrate Aaron's commitment to citizenship and volunteerism.
In commemoration of this year's Aaron Eilerts Day of Service and Giving on Feb. 24, 13 schools across the State of Iowa screened the feature-length documentary film New York Says Thank You, which chronicles the restoration of the Little Sioux Scout Ranch by volunteers from the New York Says Thank You Foundation and stories of healing shared by Aaron's friends who survived the 2008 tornado.
The film screenings were part of New York Says Thank You Foundation's youth service-learning division, the 9/12 Generation Project. The organization's mission is to inspire and educate 1.5 Million middle and high school students with the positive lessons of humanity, kindness and citizenship of 9/12--the day after 9/11--in order to activate these students in volunteer service projects focused on community revitalization, disaster relief, and the arts, that will empower students to have a positive impact on communities beyond their economic means and geographic limitations.
In addition to viewing the film, Iowa students were the first in the nation to pilot survey questions regarding service, volunteerism and citizenship, which will empower the 9/12 Generation Project to continue to develop inspiring hands-on service opportunities for youth that will create a systemic shift in the field of youth service-learning.
Lori Sullivan, National Project Manager for the 9/12 Generation Project, had the privilege of attending an Aaron Eilerts Day of Service and Giving event at the Eagle Grove Community School.
"Through their voice and action, students at Eagle Grove Middle School showed each of us that very ordinary kids can do extraordinary things and have a ton of fun while doing it!" Sullivan said.
Middle and high school students at Eagle Grove Community School sewed 165 pillow cases for hospital patients; 25 students walked 73.5 miles to raise awareness for world hunger and poverty and raised $1,451.50 for Heifer International; 215 Kaleidoscopes were made and sent to Blank Children's Hospital in Des Moines, Iowa; 100 boxes were decorated and filled with ingredients for "Chili in a Box" to donate to Upper De Moines, an organization that helps impoverished individuals and families in Wright County Iowa. They decorated and distributed 103 pet mats for local animal shelters and hospitals; assembled 100 gifts bags to be sent to Home of Blessing, a girl's home in Thailand. The students decorated and sent cards to veteran's hospitals and soldiers overseas; assembled and donated a carpet ball table to Parkview Park in Eagle Grove. They created and hung 200 suet bird feeders in parks around Eagle Grove; 30 fleece tie blankets were made for Rotary Ann Nursing Home in Eagle Grove; 575 holiday-themed crafts were created and will be given to senior citizen centers and meals on wheels recipients over the next year; and, 47 white pillowcases were decorated and sent to Iowa soldiers serving overseas.
Following the events at Eagle Grove Middle School, Principal Scott Jeske remarked, "For the first time ever it feels like we are celebrating instead of grieving," the life of Aaron Elierts--a young boy who lived a life of citizenship and service.
Educators, parents or youth interested in bringing The 9/12 Generation Project to their school can contact National Project Director Tracey E. Vitchers at firstname.lastname@example.org or National Project Manager Lori Sullivan at email@example.com
Follow Tracey E. Vitchers on Twitter: www.twitter.com/TraceyEVitchers