Cass High's 138 cadets took part in the fifth-annual event to spread cheer to the veterans.
"The schools always want to support different organizations," said Seamus O'Shea, JROTC teacher. "This year, cadets had the option to bring in a toy for Toys for Bartow instead of Toys for Tots. They can exempt one of their exams by bringing in a toy."
In order to be able to provide gifts for the veterans, students held various fundraisers and accepted donations. Throughout the year, JROTC cadets are actively engaged in the various parades and community events in Bartow County. During the Christmas holiday season, cadets send cards to active-duty military as well as create Christmas packages for those officers. In the past, and continuing again this year, cadets travel to a local assisted living or nursing home to sing carols to the residents. This year, cadets will go to Waldrop Assisted Living home Thursday at 7 p.m. The community is welcome to join the group as they hope to lift the spirits of residents.
When deciding on the types of gifts, O'Shea said that they "give items that cannot normally be provided by the facility these veterans are in. We want to give them something that is truly theirs."
This year, packages included a blanket, puzzle books, candy and an assortment of small items such as hand sanitizer and tissues that may be needed. Normally, the group would provide approximately 200 packages, but this year, with the budget being tighter, fewer packages could be completed. About 70 packages will be given to Bartow veterans. Adding an extra helping hand was Phil Leiter, president of the Nam Knights Blue Ridge chapter, who offered to take the gifts to Milledgeville on behalf of the cadets.
To assist with the effort, Harley Davidson of Cartersville, led by General Manager Penny Golden, held a charity ride for the community. Golden has expressed the desire to make the ride an annual event, following in the footsteps of a former Harley Davidson dealership manager in South Carolina, Earl Smalls.
Smalls organized various charity rides for veterans and after six years gained more than 8,000 riders. Golden's vision is to have 8,000 riders or more participate in helping the veterans and other ways to support the military.
Sherry Wrubelsky, marketing and promotions coordinator for Harley Davidson Cartersville, said, "The Cass JROTC came to us and asked if we could contribute anything to the veterans for Christmas. We thought a ride would be the best idea and plan to make it an annual event. The Cass JROTC program does so much in getting the students ready for life and gives them the discipline they will need. They also have a great color guard that the veterans enjoyed."
Ciara Snyder, a JROTC student, said, "I joined JROTC because my dad was a big influence. He was in the Air Force and I wanted to try to have some of the same experiences and to be more than what I am now. There are so many people with different backgrounds and its like a big family. JROTC opens a different world and has the discipline of the Army. Honestly, I don't think many kids would take the time out to do this to help veterans. For most people, Christmas is about the presents, but I think it's better to see someone smile."