ORANGE PARK, Fla. – Students at Discovery Oaks Elementary in Clay County forged a friendship with a military widow who lives near the school’s playground, writing her 200 cards and letters to show their appreciation for her husband’s service.
PE teacher Daniel Kaufman always saw Vicky Tomasello working in her garden and introduced himself one day after school.
“I said, ‘Hey, I see you out here all the time. The kids and I kind of refer to you as the Garden Lady,’” Kaufman said.
After finding out Tomasello’s husband, Allen, was a Vietnam veteran who passed away in 2018, Kaufman decided to have his students write letters of appreciation as part of a Veterans Day project.
“We got an overwhelming response. Over 200 kids wrote very personal letters to her. They did a great job. Kindergarten through sixth grade,” Kaufman said.
Kaufman and the students presented Tomasello with their gifts.
“I was hesitant at first to accept it because the tears already started to roll down my face. He told me what they had done and what was in the box. There was over 200 of them,” Tomasello said.
They asked Tomasello to share the letters of appreciation with her American Legion Post.
Tomasello and veterans from the legion paid a visit to Discovery Oaks Elementary on Friday to meet the children and thank them for their kind words.
“I also grew up in a military family. It goes to my heart. Thank you so much,” one veteran emotionally said to the children.
Kaufman also presented Tomasello with one more gift, a hand painted sign from the students that reads: “The Garden Lady.”
“We can put it by her fence and when you’re thinking about the Garden Lady you can look over and give a wave,” Kaufman told the children.
Kaufman hopes this project served as a life lesson the children won’t forget.
“In a year with so many different challenges, something like this renewed the spirit of the children and certainly Vicky. I think it’s a good lesson. We work hard on academics but we also work hard on character education and teaching these kids life skills. I think this was a good learning opportunity for them to think of others,” Kaufman said.
Kaufman hopes to create a relationship with the American Legion and have mentorship programs in the future.