Christina Maehr, a mother of three children, found herself in the precarious quandary many parents find themselves in on November 1st every year- what to do with several pounds of excess trick-or-treat candy.
As the Community Service Coordinator for the Pleasanton Mother’s Club, Christina took it upon herself to find a useful way to redistribute the candy.
That is when she discovered Operation Gratitude in Van Nuys, California.
Operation Gratitude is a charitable organization that annually sends 100,000 care packages filled with snacks, entertainment items and personal letters of appreciation addressed to individually named U.S. Service Members deployed in hostile regions, to their children left behind and to Wounded Warriors recuperating in Transition Units. Their mission is to lift morale, bring a smile to a service member’s face and express the appreciation and support of the American people to our Armed Forces.
Maehr contact nine local school principals and PTA presidents inviting them to join her in her efforts to redistribute excess candy to soldiers overseas. The six elementary schools that participated in her Candy for Troops campaign included , , , , , and .
“I had dropped off a couple of boxes at each school thinking I would maybe get a box or two,” said Maehr.
“I never expected the incredible participation to be what it was.”
Only a week after the candy collection campaign had begun, Maehr went to each school to collect the boxes of treats. She was not prepared for the nearly 1,800 pounds of candy in 48 boxes that she ended up with.
In addition, she had placed a box in the medical staff room at the Palo Alto Medical Foundation, which ended up donating 200 pounds of candy.
“By the time I had collected all of the donation boxes, I literally was up to my knees in candy,” said Maehr.
"I couldn't believe how generous the kids were with their treasured Halloween candy."
Maehr had initially solicited help from COR-O-VAN to help her ship the candy to Operation Gratitude in what she estimated would be 18 boxes. When Maehr called to let them know her shipment had grown to 48 boxes, she was pleasantly surprised by their response.
“COR-O-VAN was great," she said. "Not only did they offer to ship the donated candy for free, they didn’t even bat an eye when I let them know how large the shipment had become.”
A portion of the candy donations were also given to Blue Star Moms, a local non-profit organization that support troops and their families.
Both Hearst and Donlon donated nearly 12 boxes each.
Donlon’s Student Leadership Team played a large role in promoting the campaign by decorating the boxes and by making morning announcements, reminding students of their goal to support the troops overseas.
One first-grade classroom at Donlon Elementary School had a contest to see who could bring in the most candy by weight.
"I was continually amazed each day as more and more candy was donated by Donlon students, staff, and families," said Donlon's principal Amy Simione. "At Donlon we encourage students to practice their Lifeskiils and the Pleasanton Community of Character traits. Donating to the troops over seas gave our students the opportunity to practice their caring, compassion and integrity skills."
Hearst Elementary School's principal Michael Kuhfal also expressed appreciation for the outpouring of support by his students and staff.
"During the month of November and December our school and school district focus on the Pleasanton Community of Character Trait Compassion," Kuhfal said. "I was
deeply touched and proud of the compassion that Hearst students and staff showed by donating extra candy after Halloween to be sent to our soldiers overseas. The outpouring of love and candy will touch our soldiers lives in so many ways."
Maehr was overwhelmed by the large participation within the community, especially since she kept publicity low key with basic flyers.
When asked whether or not she anticipated running the same campaign next year she had this to say:
“Absolutely," she said "I think it will be even bigger next year .”