For the last four years, the Kates family has been conducting a holiday card drive throughout the Port Washington School District for the U.S. Navy SEALs to bring holiday cheer to those serving the United States. What started in Weber Middle School with 700 cards collected in 10 days has grown into a card collection in every public school from all five elementary schools to Schreiber High School, with 2,200 cards collected over one month.
“Originally, I have a friend involved with the Navy SEAL Foundation, and when he first told me about it, we went to an award dinner,” said father and husband David Kates, explaining how his family came up with the idea four years ago. “We’ve been sending care packages to military for years and when I was talking to the SEALs, I asked what were the best things they received. They said cards of gratitude and thanks.”
When David told his two sons Matthew, now a junior at Schreiber, and Daniel, a freshman, they jumped at the idea to start a holiday card collection at their school. Because they were both in Weber Middle School at the time, the collection started there and then moved up to Schreiber as the boys entered high school. 2017 was the first year that the family was able to expand the collection to all five elementary schools as well.
“All the principals were very supportive throughout the process,” said Matthew. “It’s amazing, I couldn’t be more proud. Having the community come together for such a simple and meaningful cause—it’s heartwarming.”
“Anything I can do to make a person’s day who is risking their life for my safety, I’ll do,” said Daniel.
Each school receives a box of pre-made cards for the kids to write their thank-yous on, but the Kates family said many of the children create their own handmade cards for the Navy SEALs.
“For someone like me who isn’t artistically inclined, the pre-made cards get everyone involved,” said David. “But some of the kids go all out and the sentiment is incredible. When you pick up a card from a fourth grade student and you see an hour of hard work, it’s awe-inspiring.”
The Kates family sends the cards they collect to the Navy SEAL Foundation which then sends the cards out all over the world to Navy SEALs. Last year, the Kates family received an email from the Foundation with a 16-page document attached containing responses to the cards from the students.
“It’s really nice also to show your kids how they can do something for others and how a small thing can go so far,” said mother and wife Amy. “And, as a family, we value those lessons.”