CENTERVILLE -- In the spirit of giving, students at Taylor Elementary School are sending a holiday care package to soldiers in Afghanistan.
On Monday and Tuesday, students in classes taught by Laura Eliason and Cathy Tonge collected homemade art, cards and candy bars to send to the troops.
"We've been working on string art and pictures of snowmen," said student Kendalyn Summerhays, whose uncle, Chad Thurgood, is serving in the Air Force.
"On the back, we wrote a thank you and signed our names, and we all donated money to buy a whole bunch of candy bars for the soldiers."
The project is part of the school's Hero Day, which started in 2009 as a way to honor someone special.
"This year, on Veterans Day, we had a live conference with a soldier currently in Afghanistan via Yahoo Messenger and asked him questions we had prepared," Eliason said.
"He was able to send us a few pictures of what it looked like where they slept, where they could get some food and the bunkers beforehand, so we had an idea of what it looked like there."
Student Josh Born said he thought it was cool to talk live with a soldier and that he learned several things.
"I didn't know they had so many allies in Afghanistan," he said. "I was also wondering if he had gotten into any sticky situations. He said he hadn't, because he helps the people who get injured."
The soldier, Sgt. 1st Class Chris Slevin, of the 82nd Airborn Division in North Carolina, sparked the students' curiosity while talking about what it was like to be away from home during the holidays.
"We collected enough money to send over 200 candy bars that will be distributed with special Christmas cards to the soldiers on Christmas Day to let them know we are thinking of them," Eliason said.
Annie, a student whose an uncle is serving in the National Guard, said she was excited to talk to a deployed soldier.
"I think it's important that they're there, because they are fighting for my freedom and for other people's freedom," she said. "I'm really glad we are doing this, because people who don't get stuff for Christmas should get something."
The project also allowed the students to solve some math-related problems, Eliason said.
"We needed to figure out what the most cost-effective way to ship our packages through priority mail would be, using two large or three medium boxes," she said.
"We calculated the volume of the boxes and cost per square inch for each option."
Aubrey, a student whose brother is in the Air Force, said she hopes the soldiers who receive the package will be as excited as she was getting it ready.
"I hope it will make them happy," she said. "I think it's exciting to do this, and I was happy to talk to a soldier and see what his life was like over there."
Eliason said she thinks it's important for the students to know there isn't an age limit on making a difference in someone's life.
"Last year, we did this and went through the website anysoldier.com. Anyone can go onto the website and it will match you up with a soldier to help," she said.
"And this year, thanks to 78 elementary school kids in Utah, several hundred soldiers will get a smile and thank you for the sacrifices they are making for our country and hopefully have their spirits lifted on Christmas Day, especially in this season of giving for those who give so much for our country.
"On Hero Day, we are honoring true heroes."