Students at West Hartford’s Charter Oak International Academy collected food for the Veterans Administration Food Bank in celebration of Veterans Day, and had a chance to tour military vehicles.
By Ronni Newton
For more than 20 years, Janet Fournier has been organizing Veterans Day celebrations at Charter Oak International Academy in West Hartford, where she is a paraprofessional.
Most years the celebration has included an assembly led by the students, with dozens of veterans in attendance, but for the past two years the COVID-19 pandemic has made that type of event impossible. No formal celebration took place in 2020, amid the strict protocols that were in place at the time, but this year Fournier found a way to hold a safe event that involved the entire Charter Oak community.
“Because of COVID we we still weren’t able to do a big crowd inside,” she said. But Fournier will be retiring at the end of December, and wanted to make sure the last official Veterans Day event she organized was meaningful.
This year’s event, she said, was a great success and perhaps even more meaningful.
“Our children at Charter Oak are so kind,” she said Thursday, as a steady stream of students dropped of donations of nonperishables for the Veterans Administration Food Bank, which is located in Newington. She estimated that more than 1,000 items such as pasta, sauce, peanut butter, cereal, tuna, soups, macaroni and cheese, and other easy meals and staples had been donated.
The 143rd Military Police, based nearly right across the street from the school in West Hartford, brought one of their military vehicles to the school, and provided tours and posed for photos with the students. They planned to transport the collections to the Food Bank. Dan O’Connor, a retired West Hartford Public Schools employee, brought a military jeep he had rebuilt, and students took turns trying out the seats.
Fournier has always inspired to hold a Veterans Day celebration by her love for the country and the people who defend it, as well as her love for children.
“I’m very passionate about Veterans Day, and I think it’s important for the kids to learn about it,” she said. Thursday’s outpouring was overwhelming, she added.
“We want to wish all our veterans a Happy Veterans Day,” she said.
And while she will be officially retired, Fournier is already planning to volunteer to hold an event at Charter Oak next November.
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