PHOTO GALLERY — Elementary students’ letter writing sparks support, responses from businesses

Published 1:40 pm Tuesday, May 16, 2023

PORT NECHES — When 10-year-old Cohen Giblin starts football this fall, he’ll have a fancy new pair of cleats. And all because he wrote a letter of appreciation to Academy Sports and Outdoors, in which he mentioned wanting the athletic footwear.

“I told them that I love what they do for all of us, and they help no matter what,” said Giblin, who is in fourth grade at Port Neches Elementary.

What became a surprise for 45 students Tuesday started with an assignment by English teacher Kaycee Doyle — write a letter to a business and tell them why you like them.

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“I gave them an option to write to anyone local,” she said. “That’s what we were stressing — keeping it local and showing appreciation to the people that are closest to us. PNG is a super tight-knit community, and I wanted to keep all of that here in our community. They don’t get opportunities like this, and that’s what I love about it. They’re getting a unique opportunity not many kids get to have.”

She told the approximate 45 students not to expect anything in return. But several students received responses, as well as some surprises.

Neches River Wheelhouse posted on social media a letter received from Walker Goodridge. In it, he asked for a T-shirt. The restaurant said he could stop by anytime to pick it up.

And Mama Kim’s posted the letter received from a student identified only as Rowan. Restaurant officials designed a first-ever T-shirt in appreciation of the letter.

“What I love about it is that letter writing is a lost art,” said Assistant Principal Angela Lewis. “I love that she took this as part of her curriculum.”

Doyle said the assignment, now in its second year, gives students the chance to do something that’s not extremely academic, while also teaching large lessons.

“Some kids flourish in other areas, and this is art to me,” she said. “They get to learn cursive, community and all kinds of stuff through letter writing. They have to work on handwriting. And there are so many life lessons that are involved, so it’s been really fun.”

And, Lewis said, the students have been excited to receive letters back.

But on Tuesday, representatives with Academy came with more than just a letter.

Representatives appeared to give Giblin a $150 gift card, an “official Academy Team Member” badge, a store shirt and also had bags for all of his classmates.

“We just got this lovely letter that was written by Cohen to our local Academy Sports and Outdoors about how much he loves the team there, the staff there and how he finds everything he needs,” said Academy Marketing Director Kaci Hancock. “So how could we not come support Cohen in this moment? We have now made him an official Academy team member. He has a badge.”

Giblin said the response made him feel “really good.”

“I feel amazing that they came to the school to give us all rewards,” he said. “But I think the most important thing about it is that they came to show us appreciation.”