Wreaths for veterans’ graves
Student raising funds for annual ceremony in King
By Angie Landsverk
Chloe Heisler’s passion for veterans is behind her effort to raise funds for wreaths for the graves at Veterans Memorial Cemetery.
Each December, a ceremony and wreath laying takes place at the cemetery in King.
“Last year, there were about 6,500 to 6,700 graves in there, and it’s growing every day. Last year, there were enough wreaths to cover about 5,400 graves,” said Heisler, who is a freshman at Waupaca High School.
This year, the event takes place on Saturday, Dec. 17, with the wreath laying beginning at 10 a.m., followed by the ceremony at 11 a.m.
American Legion Riders District 8 began placing wreaths in 2012.
After contacting Wreaths Across America, the group became the coordinator for the cemetery in King.
The mission of Wreaths Across America is to remember, honor and teach.
Coordinating wreath laying ceremonies at Arlington National Cemetery and at veterans’ cemeteries throughout the country is one way it does this.
A group of American Legion members founded and chartered the American Legion Riders Association of Wisconsin in 2000.
They use their interest in motorcycles as a way to grow the American Legion in the state.
Heisler explained how she became interested in their fundraising effort.
“My grandpa is a veteran and two of my uncles and an aunt. I’m super proud to have them in my family,” she said. “I want to be in the U.S. Army Reserves.”
Heisler’s mother, Becky, told her about the project after she learned about it.
“We have done it at least two years,” Heisler said.
The 14-year-old’s decision to raise funds so more graves may be covered by wreaths this Christmas season grew toward the end of this past school year.
That is when Stephanie Imhoff, who was Heisler’s eighth-grade English and math teacher, assigned a social action project.
For Heisler, who was already interested in doing something related to the local, it was the impetus to take it a step further.
It became her project.
After her mother posted something on Facebook about how proud she was of her daughter, relatives who are members of American Legion Riders District 8 asked Heisler if she would talk to them about her plan.
Last month, she did so.
“They wanted to know what was going on, how they could help,” Heisler said.
Shortly after attending that meeting, she had already raised enough funds for 100 wreaths.
Her goal is to raise funds for a total of 500 wreaths.
“I’d love to have more,” she said.
The cost is $15 for one wreath.
For every two wreaths purchased, another one is added for free.
People may sponsor as many wreaths as they wish.
Those who want to be part of Heisler’s fundraiser may mail checks, payable to the American Legion Rider Association, to her at E2717 East Christmas Tree Lane, Waupaca, WI 54981.
She will then deliver the checks to the organization.
The deadline is Monday, Nov. 28.
“If people want to donate to support the effort in King, they have to donate it this way,” Heisler said. “Online donations go to Arlington (National Cemetery).”
She has received donations from local businesses and said Kelly Handy, a local Scentsy representative, was buying a wreath based on the number of products sold,
“I raised enough for 18 (wreaths) in one day,” Heisler said.
Heisler will keep track of how much she raises this year.
“I want to then raise more the next year and more the year after,” she said.
She plans to make it an annual project and said those interested in volunteering to help lay wreaths on graves in King may arrive at the cemetery by 10 a.m. Saturday, Dec. 17.
“Laying that wreath is honoring that veteran and everything they have done for us,” Heisler said. “That just means a lot.”