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Hamilton Early Learning Center third-grader Dazlyn Williams, 8, makes a Valentine on Thursday. Williams and her classmates made Valentine greetings for patients at Gundersen Health System and area nursing homes.

Brianna Rodgers had a special person in mind as she crafted a Valentine Thursday afternoon.

Covering her paper with heart shaped cutouts and messages written in colored pencil, the Hamilton Elementary School third-grader thought of her grandmother, who died last winter of cancer.

“My grandma would love it,” Rodgers said of her pink, red and purple masterpiece. “I want this to go to (someone in) the nursing home.”

Rodgers, 8, was among some 200 students to create a card yesterday for the Gundersen Service Excellence Department, which distributes handmade greetings to patients at Gundersen Health System and area nursing home residents. All grade levels were involved in the activity, cutting, coloring and gluing to help Gundersen Service Excellence exceed last year’s total of 2,400 cards, completed with the help of the UW-La Crosse Lions Club. Cards will be distributed Wednesday.

“We all want Valentine’s Day cards, but for our patients, the cards are even more special,” Gundersen Service Excellence specialist Sue La Crosse said. “When they hear that a child has taken time to create a card and wish them a happy Valentine’s Day, it immediately brightens their spirit.”

Students in Courtney Kirchner’s third-grade class had a personal connection to the project, having gone on field trips to local nursing homes, chatting and playing games with the residents, and many having had loved ones in a hospital or care center. Those connections help inspire empathy, love and compassion, Kirchner said, which were reflected in each student’s inscriptions.

“I think I’m going to write, ‘I hope you get out soon and I’m sorry you are in there and I hope you feel better,’” said River Erbe, 9, while Rodgers chose to write, “Love yourself because you’re the best and you’re unique.”


Students at Hamilton Elementary spent Thursday afternoon making Valentines for patients at Gundersen Health System and area nursing homes.

La Crosse school board considers $9 million expansion for Hamilton Elementary

Many of the decorations the students chose were reflective of their personalities, with Katrina Thao, 8, adorning each heart with long-lashed eyes and smiling lips, and Dazlyn Williams, 8, cutting out pictures of desserts, from mint chip ice cream to lollipops, she had drawn during free time earlier in the day.

“My favorite is the Sunday and the Friday,” Williams said, pointing to her colorful renditions of ice cream sundaes as she carefully cut out a Popsicle. “The Friday tastes like ‘Shubert’ ice cream.”

An impressive artist, Williams was confident her card would make someone very happy on an occasion centered on love and kindness — “a type of day where a family can get together and tell how you feel about each other,” she said.

From the simple and sweet to the shiny and elaborate, each finished Valentine was unique and heartfelt, signed at the bottom to let the recipient know it was made with care.

“These are for people who need a little sunshine,” Kirchner said. “Kids’ artwork always makes people smile.”

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General assignment reporter

Emily Pyrek covers human interest stories, local events and anything involving dogs for the La Crosse Tribune. She is always interested in story ideas and can be contacted at

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