Oak Bay artwork wings across Canada

Teacher harnesses young energy to show caring for veterans

Oak Bay High students

Oak Bay High students

Teacher Jacqueline Gillespie craftily fills the spaces between Remembrance Day and Christmas break.

The English and Social Studies teacher at Oak Bay High settles high spirits and melds creativity with a little history in preparation for Valentines for Veterans each year.

Students make handcrafted Valentine cards in December that are then distributed to Canadian veterans around the country, many of whom are elderly and hospitalized.

“Before Christmas when the kids are a little squirrelly I have them doing writing and crafting,” she said. They hand-craft Valentine’s cards for veterans, distributed through Veterans Affairs Canada. VAC distributes the cards in long-term care facilities across the country in time for Feb. 14.

“They seem to like the creativity of it,” Gillespie said. “All of the students, they seem to really get into the spirit of it, which is thanking someone they’ve never met. … Just to say thank you, we appreciate you, you’re not forgotten, that kind of thing.”

More than 400 valentines have gone out from Oak Bay High over the last decade. Students know the cards go to veterans in care homes, which conjures images of an old man who sacrificed in war or peacekeeping.

“It was pretty cool to send cards to the veterans and it was fun to make. I like art,” said Tania Dodo. “They did so much and sacrificed a lot and were very brave. It was cool to thank them for that.”

Making cards seems a simple task to make a big impact, thanking them for contributions to the country.  Some may be alone, or feel forgotten, says student Vlad Pienariu.

“Most of these people are war heroes,” Vlad said. “A card can honestly go a long way emotionally and mentally. It means a lot for somebody to get a card.”

Valentines for Vets began in 1989 when the late newspaper columnist, Ann Landers, encouraged readers to create special valentines for veterans in care facilities throughout North America. Every year, Landers’ special “Valentines for Vets” column asked her readers to remember the sacrifices of veterans by making them personal hand-crafted valentines. VAC has delivered valentines since 1996 and this year marks the 10th anniversary of Oak Bay High student participation.