BL BE vets 2

Bellevue East High School students Carter Albers, left, Robert Harbin and Lindsay Van Ryckeghem are part of a group of 25 Future Business Leaders of America Club members who volunteer at the Eastern Nebraska Veterans’ Home. The trio displays veterans' bracelets being sold for $1 each to help raise $3,000 for technology being added to the ENVH.

A unique sweetheart’s dance will take place Feb. 12 at the Eastern Nebraska Veterans’ Home.

Students from the Future Business Leaders of America club at Bellevue East High School will sponsor a dance that spans five decades of styles. And, veterans may dance at the event as they wish.

The program is part of an FBLA partnership initiated earlier this school year when students chose the veterans home as a community service project.

A fundraising goal of $3,000 was set to help the ENVH purchase iPad computers for the residents.

To make up the $1,000 that remains, students are selling $1 patriotic bracelets and $15 T-shirts which read, “Never Forget. Thank a Vet.” They are being sold through this week.

East seniors Carter Albers, Robert Harbin and Lindsay Van Ryckeghem are FBLA officers who were among the group of students brainstorming ideas during a summer retreat.

“We live in a military community so we decided we want to serve the ones who served us,” Albers said.

“We want to give back to those who’ve given so much to us and helped our community in so many ways.”

FBLA students have been regularly meeting with veterans in the home and sharing dinners, movies and sporting events since last fall.

The students also encouraged others in their student body to make Christmas cards for the veterans.

“We volunteer there a lot,” Harbin said. “It’s probably nice for them to see new faces.”

Harbin said of the 25 students in FBLA, most will likely continue to visit residents in the home after graduation.

“One of the coolest stories I’ve heard was from a guy who said he was one of the first jumpers at Normandy on D-Day,” Harbin said. “I learned about it in history, but I never thought I’d meet anyone who actually lived it.”

Albers said he didn’t realize how big of an impact their visits would have on the people staying in the home.

“A lot of connections have been made. It’s shown me how much strangers can impact others’ lives,” Albers said. “They definitely like our company, but they could have even more company than they get.

“We went there on Veterans Day and they attended the 9-11 football game again. It was neat to see how happy they were about that.”

An active social calendar is kept at the home as a rule, but now the students join in events such as karaoke and Wii (video game) bowling and highly competitive bingo games, said Van Ryckeghem.

“Getting to know the people there is great,” she said. “In history class, we get credits to graduate, but we much prefer hearing the military stories from them. And, we learn about their families, too. It makes me appreciate the military more.”

Patti Howe, the ENVH volunteer services coordinator, said the members of the home enjoy their interactions with the teenagers.

“We hosted a car show on Halloween that included about 30 cars, a storm chaser van and an antique popcorn machine, and the teens and their teacher, Andrew Werner, were very helpful,” Howe said.

“They followed all of our instructions and were responsive to the members who agreed to go outside into the cold to view the cars.”

Unfortunately it was a bitter cold, cloudy day, she said. And, most of the members were wheel chair bound, so it takes special care to escort each one of them carefully to and from the parking lot, but the students responded appropriately.

“They always seem to get along and find interesting tidbits about one another,” Howe said.

“We encourage high school students to spend time with our members to learn about their service to our country.”

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