By Leah Sander
WARSAW — Warsaw Community High School students hope to help military members and first responders with a Halloween fundraiser.
On Oct. 31, the Hearts from Home 5K will be held in Winona Lake. The 5K, consisting of both a run and a walk, will raise money for the nonprofit.
WCHS junior Skylar Ashcraft, along with junior Kendall Hepler, started the organization for a very personal reason. Ashcraft’s father, Edward Ashcraft, is currently stationed in Afghanistan and has served in the Army for about 30 years.
“We understood how the soldiers felt during the holidays when they couldn’t be home with their families,” Skylar Ashcraft said. “So we wanted to do something that made them feel more home and welcomed.”
They put candy and toiletries into 50 care packages and sent them out to military members for Valentine’s Day. Thus, Hearts from Home was born.
Junior Rachel McLane, whose uncle, Brett Fish, serves in the Air Force, also helps lead the group.
The organization’s focus is to serve military members, but the students decided to support first responders as well through the 5K.
Edward Ashcraft has served as a police officer. The girls also noted everything first responders have been through this year because of COVID-19.
“We’re trying to provide some intentional love for the soldiers and for the first responders and all that. Just the effort I hope is what makes them think they are appreciated,” said McLane of what she hopes to achieve.
The project was also started through the Family, Career and Community Leaders of America (FCCLA) club the girls are in at WCHS. Family and Consumer Science teachers Dena Lancaster and Shannon Wilcox, the club’s leaders, also assist with the nonprofit. The teens put on a presentation of the project at the state FCCLA conference earlier this year and placed second.
After the teens graduate, they plan to pass the organization on for other students to continue. They also hope the 5K run/walk will become an annual event.
For this year’s event, the cost is $25, which includes a t-shirt. Registration happens on the day of the event only. There will also be a costume contest for participants, with prizes. The girls plan to include a raffle and possibly food and drinks for purchase.
They hope to bring in Payton Dobbins to speak at the event. Payton is the daughter of Warsaw Police Officer Jason Dobbins, who passed away unexpectedly earlier this year.
Registration starts at 10:30 a.m., with an opening ceremony at 11:30 a.m. and the official start of the 5K at noon. The students are also seeking sponsors for the event and the raffle. They are traveling around to area businesses, but people may also visit heartsfromhome.org and sign up with their email at the bottom of the homepage to learn how to become sponsors.