CEDAR GROVE, Ind. — Ever since I was a kid, I have loved checking and receiving mail. There’s just something special about opening up an envelope to see someone took the time to send you a personal letter instead of typing away on a keyboard to send an email or a text by phone.
This week I received such an envelope.
Unassuming on the outside, the white envelope had a return address of a child day care center in Cedar Grove, Ind.
Upon opening the envelope, I discovered a homemade card with a photo of 11 kids standing with Old Glory. Inside the card, those children’s names scribbled across every open space surrounding this typed-out message: “We don’t know you all, but we love you all. Your service means a lot. Thanks for your service. Happy Veterans Day.”
Come to find out, the card is part of a bigger 17-year-long mission for Nikki Blades, owner of Little Hands & Feet Daycare.
“We started out with 18 and we’re now up to 143,” Blades said.
The names of veterans come from the parents of kids at the daycare. Blades' own mother also passes along names — which led to me receiving a card this year.
“I do it to teach the kids and to respect the people who gave us freedom,” Blades said. “I can’t thank all of the brave veterans who served enough but would like to extend it to every veteran out there and even the veterans whose names we don’t have.”
Throughout the 17 years she has sent thank you cards on Veterans Day, Blades has added the names of former daycare children who once posed for patriotic photos and participated in card signing.
“I believe there are seven of them who are in the service or were in the service,” she said.
Some of them come in and speak with the kids and answer their questions about military service. Blades said she does not see an end to the patriotic salute, saying the more names she gets the more cards and appreciation she can share — welcoming more names from viewers.
You can reach out to Nikki Blades by sending a note to Little Hands and Feet, 305 US HWY 52, Cedar Grove, IN 47016.