By Kristin Schultz
NISKAYUNA — There are many ways to honor fallen veterans. This fall, American Heritage Girls Troop NY2222 is participating in Wreaths Across America.
The group is chartered out of Trinity Baptist Church in Niskayuna and belongs to the national American Heritage Girls, a character development organization. The organization decided to participate in the Wreaths Across America fundraiser as a way for the girls to both raise money and to experience service for others.
“It’s about faith and service,” said troop coordinator Laura Vitkavage. “There is also a patriotic element, which is part of the American Heritage Girls.”
More than 50 school-age girls participate in the Nisakyuna troop, and each is hoping to sell 10 wreaths. The wreaths cost $15 each and the troop gets to keep $5 of each wreath sold.
On Dec. 16, the girls, along with around 25 adults, will go to the Gerald B.H. Solomon Saratoga National Cemetery in Stillwater, and along with other volunteers from around the area will place the wreaths on the graves of the servicemen and women buried there.
Wreaths Across America started in the 1990s when the Worcester Wreath Co. in Harrington, Maine, had a surplus of wreaths. Having visited Arlington National Cemetery as a child, owner Morrill Worcester worked with his state senator to have the wreaths placed at the cemetery.
The tradition continued quietly for 14 years, then expanded to cemeteries across the country in 2006. In 2016, more than 1.2 million wreaths were donated and placed at 1,200 participating locations.
This year, Saratoga National Cemetery hopes to have enough wreaths donated for each of its 10,000 graves and crypts.
American Heritage Girl Amber Cetnar, 9, is looking forward to the wreath-laying ceremony.
“I’m happy and excited,” Cetnar said. “I like being with my troop.”
Vitkavage hopes the girls will recognize the need to remember veterans who have served our country.
Troop NY2222 formed in October 2016 with 21 girls and this year has grown to more than 50.
Scotia resident Shannon Cetnar is the leader for the Tenderheart level, which is for 6- to 9-year-olds, and the camping coordinator. Three of her four daughters are in the troop and the youngest will join as soon as she’s old enough.
“I enjoy it,” said her 7-year-old daughter Emily. “I’ve made a lot of friends and I’d always been shy and didn’t want to try new things. I learned I shouldn’t be afraid to try things.”
Money from the wreath sale will help fund camping trips and general activities for the troop. To donate, visit wreaths.fastport.com/donateLocation.html?page=43013&relate=43302 or email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 518.545.6343.