For their efforts to bring smiles to those affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, Peoria residents Pravneet, 15, and Hurshneet, 12, Chadha were each presented the National American Legion Auxiliary (ALA) Good Deed and the Presidential Volunteer Service (PVS) Awards from American Legion Auxiliary Unit 62, 9847 W. Desert Cove Ave., Peoria.
Pravneet and Hurshneet started an initiative called Project Smile AZ. They began making and sending inspirational cards to patients fighting COVID-19 alone in hospitals. When COVID rules began limiting visitors to hospitals and care facilities, the idea expanded to include any patient or resident potentially suffering loneliness caused by COVID visitation limits.
To date, they have made and delivered thousands of “Smile” cards to Valley hospitals, nursing homes and the Navajo Nation. Working with Peoria’s American Legion Family, they began sending cards to the Veterans Homes in Phoenix, Prescott and Tucson as well as to Arizona VA Hospitals.
“It was a lot of hard work over a weekend but the boys are proud to have sent their 3,000th card out to serve those who served the nation,” the boys’ mom, Manpreet Chadha said.
Together with cards made by members of the American Legion Family, the Chadhas also sent cards to Walter Reed Hospital in Virginia.
The awards were presented during a joint meeting of officers and members at Peoria’s Post 62.
Presenting the National ALA Good Deed awards were the Auxiliary Unit 62 president Tammy Early and vice president Nancy Murnan.
Good Deed and Youth Heroism Awards are part of the American Legion Auxiliary’s Children and Youth program. Recognizing youth who demonstrate community service celebrating “Service not Self” is part of the Auxiliary’s mission to protect, care for and support children and youth, particularly those of veterans and military families. In addition to certificates from the National ALA President, Nicole Clapp, the Chadhas were presented with more than 100 homemade cards for their project.
“We couldn’t believe the love and creativity in those cards made especially for veterans,” Ms. Chadha said. “Many of them were even embroidered.”
Peoria’s vice mayor Michael Finn presented the “Gold Level” Presidential Volunteer Service Awards.
In 2003, the President’s Council on Service and Civic Participation founded the President’s Volunteer Service Award to recognize the important role of volunteers in America’s strength and national identity. These awards honor individuals whose service positively impacts communities and inspires those around them to take action, too.
American Legion Auxiliary Unit 62 is a qualified and certified organization in the PVSA program.
In addition to making cards, the Chadhas are making “Project Smile AZ Kits” to share with children who wish to contribute by making cards but are unable to do so due to lack of resources. They have donated close to 100 kits to Crisis Centre Arizona as well as Children with Special needs at ACCEL.
For more about the Project Smile AZ card effort visit projectsmileaz.com.
Residents who may be aware of a child or youth demonstrating a good deed or act of heroism are encouraged to email the Peoria American Legion Auxiliary at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Editor’s note: Marge Christianson is the public relations volunteer for American Legion Auxiliary, John J Morris Unit 62, Peoria.