Wake Forest student throws annual party for military families
Posted January 30, 2012
Wake Forest, N.C. — A Wake Forest high school student is using paper valentines to show appreciation to members the military and their families.
Holden McLemore, a senior at Wake Forest-Rolesville High School, started Hearts from Home in 2009 after a visit with Chaplain Larry McCarty with 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg. McCarty told him that, although families of deployed soldiers are often remembered during holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas, on Valentine’s Day they often feel forgotten.
McLemore and his school's student government association decided to start selling paper valentines for $1 every February to raise money for a party in April for families of deployed service members.
"They deserve everything we can give them," McLemore said.
The parties, previously held at Fort Bragg, have food, games, entertainment and gifts. They also offer a chance for families to take a break.
"We want to support them and take those stresses they face every day and give them an afternoon off," McLemore said.
In addition to the proceeds from the paper hearts, Wake Forest restaurants The Forks, Chick-fil-A and Milton’s Pizza & Pasta have, in previous years, donated a portion of their profits to the project.
McLemore said Hearts from Home raised $2,000 in its first year and $3,000 in 2011. He hopes to collect $5,000 next month to entertain 200 people at this year's party honoring Army National Guard families based in Louisburg.
McLemore describes the party as a humbling experience.
"Once you get there, you take a step back and (say) 'Wow, we're really making an impact.' The kids have such a great time," he said.
Wake Forest Rolesville High Principal Clinton Robinson and his wife served in the Air Force. Robinson knows the stress of deployment firsthand and said Hearts from Home helps.
"I don't think they truly understand the magnitude of what they're doing, but I guarantee you those spouses and those families appreciate it immensely," Robinson said.
Several other Wake County high schools have adopted Hearts from Home as their community service project this year.