When Corrine Sweeney's husband had lollipops, the children in Afghanistan asked for pencils and pens.
So Mrs. Sweeney and her children have gathered more than 1,200 pencils to send to Mr. Sweeney, who's still stationed in the Middle East.
Mrs. Sweeney - citing security and confidentiality concerns - refused to give her husband's first name or rank.
The pencil push was spurred by some of the letters sent back and forth between Mr. Sweeney and his family, Mrs. Sweeney said. The letters started soon after he was sent to Afghanistan with an Army special operations unit in October.
"Around Valentine's Day my fourth-grader sent him some cards with lollipops in them, so my husband was distributing those lollipops to the local children," Mrs. Sweeney said. "Then they kept coming up to him - at this point they had started opening schools - and they kept asking for pens and pencils because they don't have any there. So he could give out whatever he had, but he didn't have that many."
Inspired by her husband's letters, Mrs. Sweeney launched Project Pencils for Peace, asking the Riverside Elementary School teachers of her oldest children - fourth-grader Rebecca, 9, and second-grader Matthew, 8 - if they would be interested in collecting pencils for the Afghan kids.
"They were very enthusiastic," she said of the Riverside teachers. "They thought it was a wonderful idea."
Since spring break, Rebecca's class and the entire second grade have collected more than 1,200 pencils which will be sent directly to Mrs. Sweeney's husband in Afghanistan. What Mrs. Sweeney likes most about the project is its simplicity, requiring only that each child sacrifice one or two No. 2s from his or her pencil pouch.
"I would like to make it a movement from the American children to the Afghan children. It would be a beautiful thing to do. It's been very easy and allows children to reach out to other children in need. For us it was a way to cope, because their daddy's been gone for seven months and will be gone for a few more. So it's been a way to cope and a way to feel like they're part of whatever daddy's doing."
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