Although two months remain until Christmas, the Sarasota Military Academy cadets and Parent Teacher Cadet Council are already gearing up to provide a special way to honor the veterans buried in the Sarasota National Cemetery.
For the fourth year, the SMA high school community is raising money to decorate headstones with holiday wreaths as part of the Wreaths Across America Campaign. The national campaign has honored deceased veterans across the country since 1992.
“This is a great way to both honor our veterans and benefit the community,” said Tanya Farley, a SMAPTCC member, who has been involved with the campaign for three years.
Sarasota National Cemetery will participate in one of approximately 750 simultaneous wreath-laying ceremonies around the country Dec. 15. SMA cadets, parents and teachers, will join community volunteers in placing wreaths on the headstones to honor, teach and remember.
Each wreath is $15, and this year, SMAPTCC needs to raise $75,000 to provide 5,000 wreaths to decorate every grave within the cemetery. Not only does this provide a way to honor U.S. veterans, but Worcester Wreaths, the provider of the holiday decorations, has pledged to donate $5 from every wreath back to the school, providing up to $25,000 to benefit student body sports and social activities.
“When we found out that it could also help raise money for the school, we thought that was great, too.”
Last year, the campaign provided nearly 2,000 wreaths for the cemetery, not enough to decorate every grave. Farley says that the school community is determined to not let that happen again.
This year, Farley says she hopes to spread the word earlier and get the cadets more involved.
“Five thousand wreaths shouldn’t be difficult to manage in this community,” she said. “If every student sold three wreaths, that would put us more than halfway there.”
Farley expects contributions to pick up over the next seven weeks, and for her, the ceremony resonates as a reminder of the sacrifices made by U.S. servicemen and women.
“It’s a reverent ceremony,” said Farley. “But, there’s a feeling of community and camaraderie. Everyone is there for a common purpose — to honor our soldiers and their families.”
How to help
To donate to the Wreaths Across America Campaign, visit smaptcc.com