In late September, the Shawnee High School volleyball team challenged all sports teams, clubs and organizations in the Shawnee Public Schools district to make as many baskets as they could for the WE CARE Christmas Baskets for Veterans 2019 Campaign.

According to volleyball player Bailee McIntosh, the deadline for all the baskets is Nov. 30 and their purpose is to thank veterans in the area for all they have done for the country.

"I think doing the baskets is just a way for us to show them how much we appreciate them because there is no way we could ever repay them for what they've for us, so I think this is just a little way of us showing that they do mean a lot to us," Bailee McIntosh said.

Shawnee student and volleyball player Abby Mahaffey said the team and all involved with the Christmas baskets are asking the community to donate several items for veterans.

"We're asking for fleece blankets and white T-shirts and pajama pants and a tooth brush and (other) toiletries," Mahaffey said.

According to local photographer and organizer of the campaign, Jessie Newell, other toiletries include full size deodorant, shampoo, body wash, shaving cream, razors, toothbrushes, toothpaste, mouthwash, lotion, chap stick and denture cleaner.

"We also included puzzle books, decks of cards and dominoes. This is only an example and want everyone to know that any donation is appreciated," Newell said.

Newell explained SPS is not the only district in the county or surrounding areas participating in the campaign.

"This project was started in August 2018 by Emerson Newell," Newell said."It has since spread throughout the state with businesses, schools, churches, individual families, athletic teams and many tribes joining together to support our veterans. Last year, over 1,100 Oklahoma veterans received a Christmas bag."

This year, Newell said, the project hopes to provide 1,400 baskets to all patients in VA Living Centers across Oklahoma.

"We really wanted to focus on getting as many children involved this year as possible. All kinds of athletic teams across the state are participating," Newell said.

She explained the Tecumseh and Bethel football teams have also issued challenges, Shawnee football is making 20 baskets and classes from South Rock Creek and Grove have baskets as well.

In addition to schools, Newell said many businesses throughout the county are participating including BancFirst in Shawnee, Define Boutique in Tecumseh and numerous other businesses in Seminole, Shawnee and Tecumseh as well as oil companies in Oklahoma are taking part.

Newell said tribes are contributing such as Choctaw and Citizen Pottawatomie Nation.

According to Newell, she and her husband Derek will give a $1,000 scholarship to the classroom in the state that makes the most baskets.

In addition, owners of A-1 Heat and Air in Tecumseh, Tim and Vonda Muirhead and Terry and Kim Muirhead will give $1,000 to the student in the state who completes the most baskets.

"We have so many veterans in these centers that either don’t have family or their family has passed on. They cry just for the simple fact that someone remembered them," Newell said. "We hope by getting Oklahoma students involved that it will teach them to honor, respect and take care of the veterans that have sacrificed for all of us."

In addition to these efforts, Newell also takes portraits of area veterans for free.

For more information message or call Newell at (405) 214-8633 or visit the WE CARE campaign on Facebook.