Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The Airport

Hello Everyone!

I had such a fantastic time traveling to see my family yesterday, and I wanted to share a little bit of my adventure with you!

I flew into DFW International Airport around lunch time and had about a 2 hour layover. If you aren't familiar with DFW, it has 5 terminals; A, B, C, D, and E. Each terminal has 40 gates, and there is a tram that takes you from each terminal, and stops every 20 gates. I started at A1 and walked all the way to D40! (Taking the tram between each terminal, of course!). As I walked, I spotted men and women in uniform, thanked them for their service, wished them a Merry Christmas, and handed them a Christmas card.

You would truly be amazed at how shocked each and every one of our brave soldiers looked. While I was so happy that each of them would feel genuine gratitude from individuals around the country, I was also saddened at their shock. How many of them have never been stopped and thanked for their service? These men and women spend every single day sacrificing, more than we could ever imagine, just so we can enjoy the freedom we so often take for granted. Next time you see someone in uniform, take the time to thank them. It will be one of the best 30 seconds you spending doing something for someone else.

I passed out 71 cards, and have quite a few fun stories. I wanted take the time to share my favorites with you:

A group of soldiers were sitting in a circle, chatting, when I walked up to pass out cards. They watched me walk away and turn the corner before they started to open them up and read.  Coming back around the corner and watching all of them read their cards is an image I will always remember. I just wish I would have been fast enough to get my camera! I would have loved to share that with all of you!

One soldier was with his family, about to say goodbye. I handed him a card and his mom (I'm assuming) began to cry. "Thank you for what you're doing", she said. She then got up and gave me a huge hug. These are the connections I will never forget.

Another young man was sitting all alone at his gate. He was looking down at his lap when I approached him.
"Excuse me sir, I just wanted to thank you for your service and wish you very Merry Christmas. Travel Safely."
He whispered "Thank You" in a voice so soft I almost didn't hear him as I turned around to leave. I had walked 2 of the terminals already, so I stopped at a restuarant directly across from his gate to get a fountain drink. When I turned around, that young man was wiping away tears as he read his card; softly crying in a corner all alone.
Our soldiers have to be tough all of the time, how often do we think of them as anything other than brave warriors? I sat down at the restuarant and cried.

This is why I do what I do. Our service men and women NEED to know that the sacrifices they make are not in vain.
This was, by far, one of the most rewarding things I've ever experienced. Next year, I plan to hop a cheap flight to DFW in the morning, hundreds of cards in tow, and spend the entire day passing them out.

I hope all of you have a very Merry Christmas! If you haven't done something for someone else this holiday season, please consider taking the time to do so.  We have been given so much; Please give back to someone who needs it more than yourself.

Remember the brave men and women who are far from their families this Christmas. They are the reason you have the freedom to celebrate with yours.

God Bless and Merry Christmas!

Ashley Hyde
Founder of The Art of Encouragement

Sunday, December 19, 2010

The Thank You

I have been overhelmed by the mass amount of generousity that his been poured into this organization over the last 12 months. Friends, along with people I have never met, gladly joined me in this journey to help provide our nation's heroes with a lot of thanks and a little bit of Christmas cheer.

There are so many people that I want to thank, so this is my very feeble attempt to express my gratitude to all of you.  Please know that while I spend hours screening, counting, organizing, etc., NONE of this would be possible without your support. Who knew that we could go from sending just under 1,000 cards to receiving over 10,000 in just a years time? I set my goals high this year, knowing it would take a miracle to achieve them.  Thank you for beleiving in this small dream, and helping to make it become a very large reality.

To our generous donors - Not everyone is able to give, especially this time of year.  Thank you for choosing to donate to The Art of Encouragement. Your money has truly impacted multiple lives this Christmas. I can't beleive  we received  $650 in the last 24 hours of fundraising. What a miracle your generousity has created!
Thank you to our generous and caring donors. We appreciate you!

Harvey Jenkins, Owner of BodyTrends and Aria Orthopedics (OKC) - $500
Cathy and Richard Fuhr - $100
Theta Alpha Omega Fraternity @ SWOSU - $100
Lisa Worrell, Owner of The Enchanted Door (Altus) - $60
Christa Copeland - $50
Dave Scheuermann - $50
Sara Sara Cupcakes (OKC) - $50
Oakdale Schools (Edmond) - $50
Marilyn Morris - $50
Tessa Traxler, Scentsy Consultant (OKC/Norman) - $45
The Qualls Family - $40
Tessa Traxler, Director of Regal Dreams Pageantry - $30
Keith and Margaret Smith - $25
Patricia Liles - $20
Jana Sanborn - $20
Megan Johnson - $20
Nathanael and Diane Hyde - $20
Trudy Swenson - $15
Laura Phillips-Teirnan - $15
Valarie Ornatowski - $10
Taylor Smith - $10

We also had our "CHANGE CHALLENGE" at a few of our card signing parties. We raised another $100, simply in spare change!

Thank you all so much for helping us get all 10,000 of those cards shipped!

As we all know, money is only a small portion of what someone can give. We have also had many generous individuals give "stuff" to help with door prizes at our parties. Others have simply given their time.

Walmart in Weatherford, Oklahoma - Thank you for providing us with  nearly 8,000 cards the day after Christmas. $2200 worth of cards is a huge sacrifice, but you saw a worthy cause and acted. We are so greatful for your generousity.
The South OKC Pageant Board - Thank you for hosting a card signing party, and for providing cookies and drinks! You're the best!
The OKC Pageant Board - The card signing party you hosted was fantastic. 1175 cards in 2 hours! WOW! Thank you for making it beautiful and for inviting so many.
Sara Sara Cupcakes - Thanks for holding a card signing party in your store and selling mini cupcakes to help with fundraising!
Oney Fleming - The jewelry you provided for door prizes was stunning (not to mention a huge hit!) Thank you!
Todd James, owner of Thomsons Creations (OKC) - Thank you for the $25 gift certificate. Every pageant girl needs her rhinestones! Also, many thanks for providing us with a P.O. Box. It takes true talent to juggle all of those boxes coming in so close to Christmas time! Love you!
Harvey Jenkins, owner of BodyTrends (OKC) - Thank you for providing us with gift certificates for candles and lotions. They made fantastic door prizes, and everyone loved them.
Crystal Qualls, owner of CQ Photography (OKC) - Thank you for providing us with a free session. You have done so much and I could never thank you enough. Oh, and I think you may have reached close to 1,000 cards this year too =)
Theta Alpha Omega Fraternity @ SWOSU - Thanks for letting me come to campus TWICE this year and sign cards with you guys.  It's always a blast and I look forward to coming again in the spring
Elsmere Baptist Church - Thank you for coming together as a family and for writing so many Christmas cards! You worked for months to gain 1300+ cards and I can't thank you enough!
Shannon Moon - Thank you for coming over to screen cards and watch Harry Potter  =)
Russell Fuhr - I owe you more than thanks for lugging around all of those 20 gallon containers full of cards! Not to mention your more than thorough card signing capabilities! =) Thank you

To those of you who signed cards this year, there are hundreds of you and I wish I could list each and every one of you individually for your hard work and dedication. You are the backbone to this operation. Without signed cards, we would have no purpose.  Thank you for taking the time out of your day(s) to sit and write a thank you to someone you don't even know. I cannot put into words the overwhelming feeling of love and gratitude I get when I think about each of you sitting somewhere, just pouring your love into a card.
God Bless You!

There are so many people to thank. I wish I could sit down with each of you and share with you my sincere thank you. YOU are the one who makes this possible. Not me, not your neighbor, just YOU.

Thank you, from the bottom of my heart.

Ashley Hyde
Founder of The Art of Encouragement

Remember : It's never too late to donate! TAOE works year round to provide our veterans with a small gift of gratitude each Christmas. Just click the button below!

Friday, December 17, 2010

The List

It's official; all of our cards have been delivered!

Many of you have been asking which facilities received our cards, so we decided to compile a list for you.  If you don't see "YOUR" facility on the list, keep in mind that we called MANY difference facilities, left A LOT of messages, and also had a few gracious cordinators who already had plenty of cards and declined ours so that we could ship to facilities who had not yet received any. One day, we hope to have enough cards to give at least one to EVERY hospitalized veteran in the country.

Bill Nichols State Veterans Home - Alexander City

State Veterans and Pioneers Home - Palmer

Arizona State Veteran Home - Phoenix

Fayetteville Veterans Home - Fayetteville

Georgia War Veterans Home - Augusta

Yukio Okutsu State Veteran Home - Hilo

State Veterans Home - Boise
Lewiston Idaho State Veterans Home - Lewiston

Indiana Veterans Home - West Lafayette

Iowa Veterans Home - Marshalltown 

Eastern Kentucky Veteran Center - Hazard
Western Kentucky Veteran Center - Hanson
Thomson-Hood Veteran Center - Wilmore
Lexington VAMC - Lexington
Robley Rex VAMC - Louisville

John D. Dingell VAMC - Detroit
VA Ann Arbor Healthcare System - Ann Arbor

Eastern Montana Veterans Home - Glendive

Nevada Veterans Nursing Home - Boulder City

Southern Ohio Veterans Home - Georgetown

Ardmore Veteran Center - Ardmore
Clinton Veteran Center - Clinton
Lawton Veteran Center - Lawton
Norman Veteran Center - Norman
Sulphur Veteran Center - Sulphur
Talihina Veteran Center - Talihina
Jack C. Montgomery VAMC - Muskogee
Oklahoma City VAMC - Oklahoma City

Rhode Island Veterans Home - Bristol

Tennessee Valley Health Care System - Nashville
Tennessee Valley Health Care System - Murfreesboro
Mountain Home VAMC - Mountain Home
Tennessee State Veteran Home - Humboldt
Tennesse State Veteran Home - Knoxville
Tennessee State Veteran Home - Murfreesboro

William R. Courtney Texas State Veterans Home - Temple
Frank J. Tejeda Texas State Veterans Home - Floresville
Alfredo Gonzalez Texas State Veterans Home - McAllen
Thomas E. Creek VAMC - Amarillo
El Paso VAMC - El Paso
West Texas VAMC - Big Spring
Dallas VAMC - Dallas
Audie L. Murphy VA Hospital - San Antonio
Olin E Teague Medical Center - Temple
Waco VAMC - Waco
Michael E. DeBakey VAMC - Houston

Veterans Nursing Home - Salt Lake City
George E. Wahlen VAMC - Ogden

Verdelle Village - Saint Albans

Washington Veterans Home - Retsil

Wisconsin Veterans Home - King

Veterans Home of Wyoming - Buffalo

There you have it! 52 veterans facilities will be filled with your kindness, gratitude, and love this Christmas.
Thanks to you, someone who has NEVER heard the words "thank you" will be recognized for their sacrifices. I would like to personally thank everyone who has helped throughout this journey. We couldn't do it without you, and we are already looking forward to next year!

Monday, December 13, 2010

The Request

Hey TAOE fans!

This is probably one of the most hectic weeks out of the year for us! We are extremely busy calling, packaging, and taping in order to get all 10,000 of these cards delivered by Christmas! Plus, TAOE Founder (and yours truly), is a full time graduate student who has finals this week (yuck)! We definitely aren't complaining though! This is what we look forward to during the other 51 weeks of the year.

I know many of you have been asking if we have reached our goal. Thankfully, we have reached the 10,000 card goal (and then some!). We couldn't have done it with out you.
Unfortunately, we have not met our $1,000 goal to help ship all of these cards. Currently, the money we have received totals close to $700. If you add in another donation that we are hoping to receive any day now, we have $800. That puts us $200 (and maybe even $300) away from our goal.

I'd like to ask you to PLEASE consider donating a small portion to The Art of Encouragement this year.  We know that it's Christmas time, and that money is tight, but every dollar counts.

To donate securely via PayPal, just click the donate button below. You don't need a PayPal account to use PayPal, just a credit or debit cards!

Thank you!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Welcome to Our New Blog!

Welcome to Our New Blog!
The Art of Encouragement usually has too many updates to fit in one of our facebook statuses, so we have decided to start a blog! Thank you for following us on our journey to provide Christmas cards to veterans around the country.  This year we have successfully collected over 10,000 cards from thankful Americans just like you! We are currently working on getting all of those cards distributed and in the hands of our heroes.

Above is a picture of over 3100 cards that made their way to the post office this weekend! We will be keeping you up to date on the distribution of our cards, our donations, our parties, out events, and our needs throughout the year.

Don't forget to check out our website! We are hoping to give it a complete update very soon!

Thank you for helping us thank our heroes! We couldn't do it without you!