Teachers, veterans encourage patriotism through All American Kids Club SocialSubmitted: 04/16/2015
Story By Adam Fox

Teachers, veterans encourage patriotism through All American Kids Club Social
EAGLE RIVER - The younger generations of Americans will lead our country one day soon, so educators and veterans in Eagle River want students to understand the meaning of patriotism, freedom and sacrifice.

Polling data shows younger Americans don't turn out to vote at nearly the rate older people do. But some veterans hope encouragement earlier in life will help kids to strengthen their connections to their state and their country.

With that goal in mind, teachers at Eagle River Elementary School founded the All American Kids Club and hosted a social gathering with local veterans to help kids build those connections. The event gave students an opportunity to ask the veterans questions and thank them for their service.

"And what better time to start, you know?" says VFW Post 8637 Commander Al Pittelko. "I think some of our older kids--high school kids and even beyond-- have lost a little bit of patriotism [that] we used to have. Starting this young, we're hoping that it will stick with them."

Piettelko says the event offers everyone involved a chance to learn.

"And they're teaching them things, about how to be a patriot, what patriotism means," explains Pittelko. "And they're bringing in some of the VFW people to tell their experiences, what they've been through the years. I think it is a great learning process."

This was the 2nd Annual All American Kids Club Social. Many of the veterans who talked with students served in the Korean or Vietnam Wars.

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WAUSAU - A frozen river in Wausau's Sunny Vale Park got a bit more action than usual for a February morning.

Saturday, 300 people jumped into a hole cut into Big Rib River to raise money for Special Olympics Wisconsin.

The Polar Plunge is the biggest fundraiser of the year for the organization.

Mckenzi Johnson, a YMCA aquatics instructor from Stevens Point said she was excited to jump in. 

"We have a great group of us that come out and jump together, and we have a really great adaptive program so it's really good to support all of our athletes." 

Last year, the event raised $50,000; the goal is $52,000 this year.

Miranda Haima with Special Olympics Wisconsin said she was encouraged by the support she saw Saturday. 

"Those are some pretty dedicated fans and supporters of Special Olympics Wisconsin, it says a lot that they're going to jump into some freezing cold water," said Haima. "These are some brave souls here and we got a lot of people cheering them on even if they weren't able to jump, they're here to show their support." 

Saturday's Polar Plunge is just one of 13 similar events taking place around the state. 

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CENTRAL WISCONSIN - Stories of heartbreak and happiness kept hundreds of people glued to their seats in Wausau Saturday afternoon.

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RHINELANDER - Six teams competed in the 10th annual CANtastic food drive at Rouman Cinemas in Rhinelander Saturday.

They built sculptures using thousands of canned goods. Those sculptures, resembling a bridge, lighthouse, license plate and more all followed this year's theme: "On the road to ending hunger."

Rhinelander Area Food Pantry executive director Guy Hansen said these teams do a lot of planning.

"First of all you have to figure out what you're going to build, how many cans of what color and what sizes you're going to need," said Hansen. "It takes a bit of planning and you need to get started a fair amount ahead of time."

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WAUSAU - When the snow melts, it has to go somewhere. That has "National Weather Service" meteorologists and dam operators concerned.

"Last year was actually the wettest year on record for us and the data we got going back to 1890," said Wisconsin Valley Improvement Company Vice President of Operations Peter Hansen. "So we knew that this winter that we got quite a bite of snow would be a concern in the spring."

The Northwoods hasn't hit that melting phase yet, but officials are paying close attention.

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RHINELANDER - Being bullied as a child can leave a lasting impact. It's a problem that affects students around the world.

Mother of three Mindy Boyer has seen the damage bullying causes locally.

"We're starting to learn how to deal with this and I didn't want her missing out on any more school," said Boyer about her five-year-old daughter Willow.

Willow is a student at Pelican Elementary in Rhinelander. In a cell phone video, Boyer captured Willow in tears at home after she asked her daughter about school.

"He calls me disgusting," Willow cried in the video. "I don't like when he calls me disgusting."

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ONEIDA COUNTY - According to the DNR, nearly a quarter of those involved in a hunting-related accidents last year had not completed a hunter safety education course. 

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STEVENS POINT - Volunteers in Stevens Point hope to pack 100,000 meals this weekend for kids in need across the globe.

Friday and Saturday, nearly 500 people will pour into an empty airplane hangar at the Stevens Point airport for the Feed my Starving Children mobile packing event.

University of Wisconsin Stevens Point senior Christian Kamrath helped recruit volunteers for the event through UWSP's Health Care Organization.

He says it's a rewarding experience and he loves coming back every year. 

"I could be at home sitting on the couch watching TV but instead we're changing lives," said Kamrath. "You see not only the new members that say this is my first time, but it's so cool to see all the people who say this is my second, third time."

In two-hour shifts throughout the day, volunteers filled meal packs with rice, soy, dried vegetables and mineral powder. The packs will ultimately be shipped to over 70 countries around the world. Each pack holds six meals and costs as little as 88 cents to produce.

"The volunteer aspect is important to us as an organization," said Maddy Mowrey with Feed my Starving Children. "It's important for us to be able to work with the community and encourage their spirits as well as feed hungry bodies."

The organization is still aiming meet its more than $26,000 fundraising goal.

To donate to Feed My Starving Children, visit the following website

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