By Diane Turner-Hurns
Journal & Topics Reporter
Mayor Bradley Stephens, Rosemont School District 78 Superintendent Kevin Anderson and first grade teacher Kate Gilhooly met with Ramblin' Ray Stevens this week, to deliver more than 300 letters local students had written to U.S. troops.
Stevens, a personality on US 99.5 radio, kicked off the Chicago station’s “10,000 For The Troops” campaign in Rosemont. Stevens also hosts a two-hour country music program, broadcast on Sundays to 177 countries.
“This is our first stop. We are very proud to be here in Rosemont, a very giving town,” Stevens said while discussing this new effort. He hopes to gather 10,000 letters to send to U.S. troops, serving overseas, to be delivered through the USO.
“In working with veterans over the years, they have told us that when deployed to protect the U.S., the thing they liked to receive the most was a card or a letter,” Stevens said.
“It’s the simple things troops like to receive, and they always remember,” Stevens said. “They just want to know that people are thinking about them.”
The letters and drawings from the Rosemont students were packed together with red, white and blue ribbons and presented to Stevens on Monday morning, November 2nd.
“This is amazing,” Stevens said as he received the letters from Gilhooly. “We can’t thank you all enough. I know this community, and the Mayor is always the first up when helping the community, the troops and charities in need. It’s great that we can kick off the program here at Rosemont School.”
Anderson said they got to work after he received a call from Stevens early last week.
“We got to work immediately. Mrs. Gilhooly started with her first graders and then coordinated with the other grades throughout the school to be able to have at least one letter or drawing from every student which is 274 students for the project,” Anderson said.
“This is a teaching moment for the kids and a great way to recognize our veterans,” Anderson added. “They get to learn more about veterans, why Veterans Day is so important, and that our troops are deployed throughout the world to protect us.”
“We’re pleased to be a part of this program,” Gilhooly said. “The kids learned a lot while preparing their letters.”
“This is a great program. Rosemont supports all veterans in many ways, including our ongoing support of the Salute, Inc. organization,” Mayor Stephens said. “But this program is great as it helps kids understand what freedom is and what it takes to protect those freedoms. They also learn more about what our troops do every day to protect us, what they give, which is immense.”
Salute, Inc., based in Arlington Heights, was founded in 2003 to provide a safety net for military families and veterans.
After receiving the letters, Stevens, of Chicago, and Mayor Stephens visited the school lunchroom, full of kids, and several classrooms of students from first to fourth grades to thank them for the letters.
All the children applauded after Stevens told them about the program for veterans and the good that their letters will do.
The deadline to send letters for the “10,000 For The Troops” campaign is December 1. Letters can be sent to the station, addressed to: 10,000 For The Troops, Attn: Lisa & Ray, 180 N. Stetson Ave. Suite 1000, Chicago IL 60601.
“Anyone can send a letter,” Stevens said. “We aim to try to brighten the holidays for U.S. troops serving overseas.
“This is a great place to start and we greatly thank the students, Mrs. Gilhooly, Mr. Anderson and Mayor Stephens for stepping up to the plate and kicking this program off for our troops and their families,” Stevens said.
Stevens has received the Marine Corps’ "Semper Fi" award for his work on behalf of U.S. troops at home and abroad. It is the highest Marine honor which can be bestowed upon a civilian, officials note.
In addition to the letters for troops campaign, Stevens and US 99.9 will host a Wednesday, Nov. 11 concert, “Stars and Strings,” featuring top country musicians at 7:30 p.m. in the Chicago Theater in the Loop, as a tribute to the troops and a fundraiser for the Folds of Honor. Folds of Honor provides educational support to spouses and children of America’s wounded and fallen soldiers.
“Now that we know the deadline to receive more letters is December 1, we may send even more for this great effort,” Gilhooly said.