Murrieta students outdid themselves this year, and it was all from the heart.
A friendly challenge between Murrieta schools ended Feb. 1, but not before 13,711 valentines for military veterans were made.
Last year, seven elementary schools and one middle school took part in Murrieta Valley Council PTA's "Valentines for Vets" challenge, when 6,497 hand-made messages were delivered locally and abroad. All school PTAs were invited to participate again this year, and many of the same schools did. There were also some newcomers: Monte Vista Elementary, Thompson Middle School and Vista Murrieta and Murrieta Mesa high schools.
The amount of valentines hand-crafted by students more than doubled this year, according to organizer Kelly Breen-Stottman, who serves as military chair for Murrieta Valley Council PTA.
Alta Murrieta Elementary students made 4,627 valentines; Antelope Hills Elementary made 637; Avaxat Elementary made 413; Buchanan Elementary made 855; Monte Vista Elementary made 2,906; Murrieta Mesa High School made 120; Shivela Middle School made 442; Tovashal Elementary made 344; Vista Murrieta High School made 1,567; and Warm Springs Middle School made 1,800.
Last year's batch was distributed to local VFWs, American Legion posts, retirement facilities, the Brooke Army Medical Center in Texas, the VA hospital in Loma Linda, the Veterans Home in Barstow, the VA hospital in San Diego, the Naval Medical Center in San Diego and Veterans Village of San Diego and the Wounded Warrior Battalion at Camp Pendleton. However, the largest concentration of cards, 3,000, was delivered to Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan with the assistance of Air Force pilots and planes from March Air Reserve Base.
"The cards will be distributed to the same recipients as last year, along with a few more medical facilities and organizations," Breen-Stottman said. "We have been in contact with Tripler Army Medical Center in Hawaii and UCLA Operation Mend which is a program offering charitable medical services to wounded service members."
Breen-Stottman thanked those who supported the challenge, as well as the children "whose hard work makes this possible."
"Our goal is to let our veterans and those currently serving know that we are thinking about them and that we appreciate their service and sacrifice," Breen-Stottman said. "I think we are definitely achieving that goal."