WOODSTOCK – Area veterans and McHenry County special needs children came together Friday in a pre-Memorial Day celebration at the Special Education District of McHenry County.
SEDOM honored McHenry County veterans during its second annual Bringing Heroes Together event, which brought veterans from all branches of the military to the school Friday for lunch and an assembly.
“It’s an opportunity for our students, staff and administration to say thank you to those who are serving or have served,” SEDOM Principal Kim Capranica said. “We have a lot of staff members here who have family members who have fought or are fighting.”
As students arrived at the school, veterans were waiting out front and helped carry children off the buses.
“To the kids, they have been getting ready for this for a long time,” Capranica said. “They know that these people have done something very important. I think it’s safe to say we probably don’t have a student here who doesn’t know a friend or family member serving in the military.”
During an assembly, students were introduced to the veterans and were able to ask them questions about their service. Students also got to try on military gear, such as vests and helmets.
“Special needs children are visual,” said Missy Robel, staff nurse at Capt. James A. Lovell Federal Health Care Center in North Chicago and one of the lead organizers of Friday’s event.
“To them, to actually see and to touch, it helps them understand what our armed forces are all about,” she added.
Robel brought in veterans of all ages from World War II to the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. She added that the event means just as much for the veterans as it does for the students.
“I could probably fill three of these gyms up with veterans from all across the McHenry area,” she said.
James Heiderman served in the Army for five years and the National Guard for two, and said being able to interact with children with special needs on Friday was a special moment.
“It’s a great feeling,” Heiderman said. “You come here and you see the look on their faces, they look up to you and they say thank you. It’s a different kind of satisfaction than you get from just your average person. It’s an amazing feeling. To have them come up and salute you and say thank you, it melts the heart.”
Capranica said the event has grown tremendously since last year, and she hopes to continue Bringing Heroes Together for years to come.
“They want to say thank you to us for what we do, and we want to say thank you to them for what they do,” she said.