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Highcliff Elementary students send treats to troops overseas

| Sunday, Nov. 12, 2017, 9:00 p.m.
Hunter Hockman, right, Sylvia Swain, middle, and Liam Nelson were just a few of the Highcliff Elementary students who donated candy from their own treat-or-trick hauls to be shipped overseas to U.S. Troops.
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Hunter Hockman, right, Sylvia Swain, middle, and Liam Nelson were just a few of the Highcliff Elementary students who donated candy from their own treat-or-trick hauls to be shipped overseas to U.S. Troops.

For the fourth consecutive year, students at Highcliff Elementary School did the sweetest thing they could: they donated hundreds of pounds of their Halloween candy to American troops serving overseas.

“Soldiers don't get to go around to houses trick-or-treating. They fight for our country instead,” said Madison Kramer, 6.

“I gave lollipops, Skittles, candy corn, and one Jolly Rancher. I want the soldiers to be happy. They protect us. I love them,” added Evelyn Lundy, 6.

Over the course of three days, the 616 students in kindergarten through sixth grade sorted through their Halloween candy and collectively donated 764.2 pounds of chocolate bars, energy bars, taffy, licorice, gum, and other treats they had gathered while trick-or-treating.

“The soldiers have to stay in good shape so they can protect us,” explained Brooklyn Byers, 7. “They'll probably only get to eat one piece of candy a month.”

The confectionery was then given to Bouchek's Battalion, a local nonprofit organization that supports troops serving overseas. It sends food, personal hygiene products, and homemade greeting cards to let service members know they are remembered by the people for whom they serve.

The candy will be added to holiday care packages and shipped to 1,000 U.S. soldiers serving in Iraq, Afghanistan, Africa and Puerto Rico, according to Kim Bouchek, a retired Franklin Park police officer who launched Bouchek's Battalion in 2008. She currently spends up to 50 hours per week collecting, sorting and packaging donated items. The packages are stored in a donated tractor trailer truck until they are ready to be shipped.

“It always humbles me to see all the generosity in our community, especially with the children,” she said.

Maria Shevchik, a first-grade teacher at Highcliff, began the school's Halloween candy drive in 2013 while two of her brothers were serving in the Army.

“My brothers loved getting packages from home. For some soldiers, this could be the only package they get all year,” she said. “It can really boost their morale, and it's so easy.”

This year's candy collection was the largest yet.

“Our students have the biggest hearts. For a child to give up their own Halloween chocolate and candy for a cause as great as this speaks volumes about our students' character and willingness to help others,” Shevchik said.

“My expectation for next year is to continue teaching our students the importance of giving. This event is more than just giving up Halloween candy. It's about giving our students the opportunity to show our military heroes how much we care and how much we support everything they do.”

Laurie Rees is a Tribune-Review contributor.

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