FAE kindness act funds Honor Flights for 6 vets

Jill Meier, Journal editor

U.S. Rep. Dusty Johnson presents the Strength of South Dakota Award to Fred Assam Elementary student council member Sanders Anshautz. 

Jill Meier/BV Journal

Veteran Ken Bodewitz told the kids about his Midwest Honor Flight experience.

Jill Meier/BV Journal

Fourth-graders performed “America the Beautiful” using red, white and blue plates to mimic the American Flag. for more photos from the donation celebration, visit the photo gallery at brandonvalleyjournal.com.

Jill Meier/BV Journal


Kindness comes in many ways.

And at Fred Assam Elementary, it came in the form of $4,300. 

Embracing one of The Lynx Way traits – kindness – over the course of a weeklong “penny war”, the kids raised enough money to fund not three – but an impressive six – Honor Flights for local veterans. Last week, at an all-school assembly, the student council celebrated the donation with veterans and dignitaries that included South Dakota U.S. Rep. Dusty Johnson.

“These kids ran with an idea and they just did it,” said a bursting with pride FAE Principal Susan Foster. “They promoted it, they loved it, they just embraced it and they’ve learned so much about veterans and what it means to do this act of kindness.” 

Foster said the initial goal was to raise enough money to fund three Midwest Honor Flights. Honor Flight is a program that flies World War II, Korea, and Vietnam veterans to Washington, D.C. to see their memorials and meet with their elected officials. The trip serves as a way to thank and honor veterans for their sacrifice and service to our nation.

“When we’ve done penny wars for other causes, it’s right around $2,000,” she said. “But families embraced this, because they donated big bills, and that’s what pushed us up and over.”

In addition to the penny war, 2,500 Valentines were also sold, and that money was also pledged to funding the Honor Flights.

Impressed by the kind act, Rep. Johnson presented the Strength of South Dakota Award to the students. The award – now only the third one given – was created to celebrate and honor South Dakotans that display unusual perseverance, compassion, and innovation, and are beloved by their community.

“The students at Fred Assam Elementary took the desire of showing kindness seriously and surpassed their goal to honor our nation’s heroes. Their patriotism, kindness, and love for our veterans is why I am honored to present the students with the Strength of South Dakota Award,” Johnson said. “Now that is kindness. The Fred Assam elementary students’ actions serve as a reminder to all of us of how a little bit of effort by a few people can positively impact the lives of those around you.”

Johnson also gifted each of the FAE student council members with a Challenge Coin from his D.C. office. On one side of the coin is the seal of the U.S. House of Representatives. On the flip side is the seal of the state of South Dakota.

“Thanks for letting me be able to tell the rest of America what a great school this is,” Johnson said. “When I go back to Washington, D.C., we’re going to make sure that this award is entered into the Congressional record. We’ll be talking about this on the floor of the U.S. House.”

Superintendent Dr. Jarod Larson followed Johnson’s remarks. 

“I’m not used to seeing Congressmen get something done so quickly (regarding him handing out the Challenge Coins),” Larson joked.

He then complimented the kids on the huge act of kindness they carried out.

“In a world where you can be anything – and I mean that – in a world where you can be absolutely anything, be kind. Be kind. I can’t express how proud I am of what you did during the month of January when you were emphasizing our Lynx Way trait – kindness,” he said. “You’re incredible kindness is honoring the men and women of our military, and that is an incredibly thoughtful thing to do.”

He also thanked the veterans in attendance for their service.

“It is because of you that we have the opportunity to be educated and live in the greatest country in the world.”

Veteran Ken Bodewitz told the crowd about his Midwest Honor Flight experience and reflected some on his military service.

Third-grader Ella Stavenger said the kindness project made her feel good “because veterans do a lot for us and we need to do something back. The world is dark, so we need more kindness, and Fred Assam is the place to be if you need more kindness.”

Oakley Lowe, a fourth grader, said Thursday’s celebration meant a lot to him.

“I have a lot of veterans in my family and they deserve to be known, because they sacrificed their lives for us,” he said. 

“The show of support for these students and our veterans was phenomenal,” Johnson said. “I am proud to represent such bright, generous, and thoughtful students. I know our futures and our world are in good hands with them.”

To learn more about Midwest Honor Flight, visit https://www.midwesthonorflight.org/veterans.html



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