CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. — They've done it ... almost.
Twenty-five fifth-graders at Waggoner Middle School in Reynoldsburg, Ohio, set out in late January to raise $5,000 to repair years-old damage to the drummer boy at the Ohio Monument on Missionary Ridge at Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park.
The gaggle of 11-year-olds had never seen the monument, except in pictures. But their teacher, Derek Hinkle, had traveled through the area researching his family connections to the Civil War and visited the site years ago.
This year he began his lessons on history and the Civil War.
When he told the students about the monument, they wanted to do something. Military units had drummer boys to help mark time for marching and battle formations. Often the boys weren't much older than the fifth-graders.
So the kids started calling and writing to veterans groups across the country.
A Times Free Press article noted their efforts in February, and an Ohio television station featured them in a broadcast.
Donations came in.
From Ohio, of course. And Tennessee, understandable.
But also from Georgia, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Illinois and Washington, D.C.
Thanks to donors near and far, the students raised the entire amount.
And last week Gordon Ponsford, a noted conservator based in Acworth, Ga., finished work on the drummer boy statue. He replaced the right hand, reworked old repairs and inserted aluminum drumsticks to replace the original zinc ones that were missing or damaged.
The drummer boy received a little more help, too. A Missionary Ridge neighbor noticed some minor damage on another portion of the monument and donated money to complete those repairs.
The students still have one piece of unfinished business, but their efforts have not gone unnoticed.
A Civil War round-table group from Washington wrote, praising them.
The members were "impressed" by the class and their teacher.
"Our nation's history is in good hands," said the letter to the Friends of the Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park, a nonprofit that accepted donations on behalf of the students for repair of the drummer boy.
The nonprofit organization's spokeswoman, Patrice Glass, said recently that the story of these children, nearly 500 miles away, who raised money for a monument to their state's soldiers has resonated with park supporters.
"Mr. Hinkle not only taught a great history lesson but a civics lesson on involvement and taught the students the importance of thanking those who have supported them," Glass wrote.
One of the students said Hinkle's history lessons are entertaining and memorable. Those lessons helped Amrit Risal, 11, understand why preserving the monument was important.
When news arrived that the fundraising was complete, Amrit said the whole class erupted in applause.
"We were so excited; it's like a dream come true," Amrit said. "We're not just serving for the monuments; we're giving to the veterans."
Now the real work begins. The kids want to see the results of their effort.
A seven-hour bus ride and area tour are planned, with a re-dedication ceremony at the monument May 17.
To make that happen, the class has to raise $7,000 more to cover travel, food and lodging for the two-day trip. Last week, Hinkle said, they had $2,500, with more donations coming in.
Hinkle and Amrit are confident they'll reach their mark but are hoping for more donations sooner so they can finalize travel plans.
While here, the group will see other battlefield sites and some other local attractions.
Amrit is looking forward to the indoor swimming pool at the hotel and a nonmilitary visit.
"There's this thing called Rock City, and we're going to see that," he said.