Blue Springs ROTC cadets help friends in need

By Bill Althaus
The Examiner

Blue Springs South High School Jr. Air Force ROTC Cadet Chief Master Sgt. Lilly Unn, Cadet Lt. Col. Kellen Heinzman and Cadet Col. Claire Hicks were sitting around a table in Col. Stan Cole's office talking about a community service project when an idea came to light.

"With COVID, we haven't really been able to get out in the community and do any kind of community service projects," Hicks said, "so we were talking about a possible project for the school, and collectively, we came up with this great idea."

Blue Springs South High School Air Force Jr. ROTC officers, from left, Kellen Heinzman, Lilly Unn and Claire Hicks look at the final stats for their recent food drive, which collected 1,280 food items for the Blue Springs South Food Pantry, that provides food for students at the high school.

Her fellow officers nodded in agreement, as she talked about a surprisingly successful Junior ROTC food drive that would stay in house and benefit the Blue Springs South High School food pantry.

"I don't know if any of us really came up with the idea," Unn said.

Hicks added, "It was a collective effort and I'm so happy and proud we were able to come up with an idea that helped our own students."

That comment was echoed by Cole, who added, "The greatest part about their idea is that our food pantry is full. And it's full because our cadets came up with this great idea and we were able to collect 1,280 food items. We've had some food drives in the past, but never one that was this successful."

There are six different flights of cadets at South, and each was challenged to bring food items over a two-week period.

"It was pretty crazy," Cole said, "because we had the boxes in our classrooms and after a day or two, they were overflowing, so we brought more boxes, and soon, they were filled. It was just great to have something like this happen when we really can't go out in the community because of COVID – so they did something right here in our school."

And the E Flight group, which is the public affairs flight, collected the most items and won a pizza party courtesy of Col. Cole.

"Tell them pizza's involved, and they get after it," Cole joked.

The cadets were given a list of the most wanted food items, and any type of breakfast item was by far the most sought-after necessity.

"So guess who went out and spent $100 on 50 boxes of Pop Tarts?" Hicks asked, pointing to Heinzman.

That's right, the young man who was the subject of a recent Examiner story about winning the Junior ROTC Silver Valor Award for saving an area couple whose pontoon caught fire went to a local store on a mission.

"I can still see that clerk's face when I brought my cart to the cash register with 50 boxes of Pop Tarts," he said, as Hicks and Unn chuckled. "Hey, breakfast items were the most requested food items, and I know all high school students love Pop Tarts."