Almost since their founding in 1928, St. Hilary School students have been participating in service projects large and small as part of their Catholic education. This year, the students collaborated with the Soldiers’ Angels organization to adopt a soldier deployed in Afghanistan. And what became of it was something neither the school nor soldier could have expected. After nine months of deployment, Spc. Jason Langley will fly to Chicago to meet his adopted family whose support got him through some tough times.
Beginning in September 2013, each grade began sending handwritten notes, cards, letters and care packages to their adopted soldier. The expectation of participating in the Soldiers’ Angels program is that the soldier also adopts the school and will send letters back to the children. When that didn’t immediately happen, principal, Kathie Donovan and the school’s project coordinator and sixth grade teacher, Emily Sexton were a bit concerned. After several months,they finally received the e-mail for which they had waited.
“You guys have no idea how much you have changed this deployment for [Jason],” his wife, Tamara would write. “I can’t thank you enough for everything you’ve done for him; building his morale, giving him hope and happiness, and something to look forward to each day.”
With this kind of encouragement, the students and faculty at St. Hilary’s kicked up their efforts to the next level. For Christmas, each child donated a new book and sent them to Fort Knox, KY to be distributed to children with parents who were deployed, like Jason, and wouldn’t be home for the holidays. The school’s faculty was so touched by Tamara’s emails, they decided to modify their annual Christmas grab bag tradition and bought presents for Jason and his family instead.
This past January, Jason and Ms. Sexton made arrangements for a Skype meeting between the soldier and his new ‘family’ during a St. Hilary all-school assembly. In February, the students received the news they had been praying for since the beginning of the school year: Jason was home on American soil, safe and sound. In celebration, the children created posters welcoming home all the returning soldiers in Jason’s unit. The posters decorated the walls during the soldiers’ special dinner with their families back in Kentucky.
“As a Catholic school, we regularly give to others in our community and around the world,” said Kathleen Donovan, principal of St. Hilary School. “Sometimes it’s difficult for children to conceive how big a difference their efforts make in the life of someone so far away,” she continued. “This experience has certainly changed that for our children.”
Jason and his family will be spending the entire school day at St. Hilary School on Monday, April 7th where students will hear about his experiences overseas, and show their appreciation for his service.
About St. Hilary School
Since it’s founding in 1928, St. Hilary School has provided generations of families with an outstanding Catholic education. Located on the north side of Chicago, St. Hilary is nestled between the Peterson Woods, Lincoln Square, and the Budlong Woods neighborhoods. St. Hilary offers value-centered preschool, kindergarten and first grade through eighth grade education.
About Soldier’s Angels
Soldiers' Angels provides aid and comfort to the men and women of the United States Army, Marines, Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard, and their families and to improve the lives of a growing veteran population. The mother of two American soldiers founded the Soldiers’ Angels Organization in 2003. To date, hundreds of thousands of "Angel" volunteers have assisted veterans, wounded and deployed personnel and their families in a variety of unique and effective ways.