Teaching students how to serve at a young age is an integral part of the parent teacher association at Cottonwood Elementary. Stacy Hansen, the Friend to Friend PTA representative wanted to involve the students in a project they would never forget by presenting the opportunity to adopt a ghost.
Based in Ogden, Adopt-a-Ghost is a nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting our troops that have been deployed, specifically those with Utah ties. They send much-needed items from home to make the troops more comfortable while serving our country.
“We do this year-round,” said Linda Larsen, founder of Adopt-a-Ghost. “As soon as Christmas is over, we start doing ‘warm hearts’ which is more beanies, scarves, hot drink mixes and hand warmers through the Valentine’s season. Then it’s goodies and chocolate for Easter and beach parties in the summer.”
Adopt-a-Ghost has been serving soldiers since its conception in 2008.
“My son was a combat medic. He noticed there were some men in his unit that were not getting anything from home, so I asked around and found people who volunteered to be their uncles or moms or brothers and send packages from home,” Larsen said. “The task force was named the Ghost Riders so that’s where we get the name.” The first shipment was to four soldiers and this year, they sent packages to 3,000 soldiers.
“My girls have an uncle who is deployed, and he’s been helped many times by Adopt-a-Ghost,” Hansen said. “I feel like it’s an under-supported group, but they do so much.”
When it came time to pick a service project for the school year, this seemed like a natural choice. Hansen joined with faculty to encourage the students to donate to the military.
Each class chose one of eight categories to support, including Operation Communicate, Operation Good Hygiene and Operation Snack Shop. The students gathered supplies for their specific operation and encouraged donations from family and friends. The school gathered enough supplies to fill several barrels with items that were shipped to deployed soldiers in time for Christmas.
“I’m retired military, so it’s near and dear to me anyway,” said Garry Bell, a member of the Adopt-A-Ghost board. “When they have a mail call, the entire unit is standing there as they call out names. It’s pretty disheartening when you don’t get mail and everybody else does.”
For that reason, Adopt-A-Ghost selects soldiers with Utah ties, and then sends packages to every member of the unit.
“We took on one company that had 300, just because of one Marine,” Larsen said.
In addition, they often make deliveries to families on the home front who have deployed family members.
“When you’re out there, you have to concentrate on what you are doing. It helps to know that someone is taking care of your family back home,” Bell said.
At a school-wide assembly in December, members of the Taylorsville Junior ROTC performed an opening flag ceremony as well as retiring an old flag that has flown over the school for many years. Then the students presented their donations to Adopt-A-Ghost and watched a slideshow filled with pictures of deployed men and women holding the goodies that have been sent from home.
“This enriches your life,” Larsen said. “This has been a faith builder when you have doubts about the world or God taking a hand in things.”
“We are thankful for the happy hearts that will put smiles on faces from Cottonwood Elementary in Holladay, Utah to military men and women who are serving so very far from home,” Principal Paulette McMillan said.