Airman surprises 2nd grader at school after 8 months apart

Months of preparation and a schoolwide assembly Monday at Wingate Elementary School culminated in a second grade student running tearfully into her mother’s arms.

Senior Airman Arika Robinson was stationed since June at Ali Al Salem Air Base in Kuwait. Class updates about her daughter, Ember, came through ClassDojo, a classroom communication app used to share reports, photos and video between parents and teachers.

Those conversations and updates sparked an idea for teacher Shelby Foltz, who said she had her students write and send Christmas cards to Robinson and her fellow airmen.

Weeks later, Robinson was told she would get to return home earlier than scheduled and asked Foltz if there was a way for her to surprise her daughter at school.

Foltz and school Principal Jim Orichosky devised a plan to gather the entire school in the gymnasium to write and send Valentine’s Day cards to Robinson.

There, they showed the school a photo of Robinson and her fellow airmen with the Christmas cards. Ember looked at the screen, pointed to her mother and turned around to see her standing less than five steps away.

“There wasn’t a dry eye. The student’s really got it,” Orichosky said. “It was really easy for the students to understand what it would be like to be away from your mother, grandmother or father for 7.5 months. Many of the students were very emotional as well.”

The assembly also featured a student-led rendition of “God Bless the USA,” which Robinson plans to send to her fellow airmen that are still deployed.

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