BOSTON (CBS) – A New Jersey teacher asked her students to write a letter to a hero, but she had no idea the impact it would have on a doctor in Boston.

Rachel Weir is an English teacher at Primary Prep School in Jersey City. She could tell her students were feeling sad, so she wanted to have them do something positive.

“I noticed the kids were really down. They didn’t know what was going to happen next with the coronavirus and they were scared so I had them compile letters thanking front liners and essential workers for everything they’re doing for us,” Weir told WBZ-TV.

Weir collected 65 letters from first through eighth grade students, and shared the idea with her best friend Sarah Stratton, a medical scribe in Boston.

“Why not try to give them to the people I work for? They are my heroes every day. Who doesn’t love receiving a letter?” Stratton said.

Stratton began distributing the letters to fellow co-workers in the emergency department, officially naming the effort the Dear Heroes Project. One day, at the end of a long shift together, Stratton sent a letter to Emergency Medicine Physician Alister Martin.

“It was an exhausting day. I got home and opened my email and saw this wonderful note that was so thoughtful, heartfelt and really inspiring,” Martin told WBZ-TV.

“Dear Hero, My name is Brody I wanted to thank you for all the hard work you are doing to keep the community safe during this time. Thank you for being so loyal to your community, selfless and heroic,” the letter read. “I’m staying busy playing with my new puppy, going on my rope swing, watching TV and riding my bike. Stay healthy and don’t forget to make time for yourself. Sincerely, Brody 4th grade.”

“Having this letter was a tangible thing that you can hold onto and share with others. Everyone who I’ve shared it with in emergency medicine and beyond all had the same reaction I did which was, this was just the cutest thing that anybody had ever seen,” Martin explained.

Dear Hero letters have since gone to front line workers all around the country, and hang proudly on display in emergency departments in Boston, Chicago, New Jersey, New York, San Diego and San Francisco.

Some of the letters from the Dear Heroes Project. (Photo credit: Dear Heroes Project )

“The Dear Heroes Project is sort of a way to explain the pandemic to kids right now. The pandemic is completely frustrating and traumatizing and no one really knows how to explain it, especially to kids. How do you comfort a child when you don’t even really know how to comfort yourself? Its’s kind of a way to connect them to the bigger picture, let’s send this letter. It’s just a small gesture, but it can make a really big impact and show compassion. It’s a way of explaining a scary time in a very simple way,” Stratton explained.

A simple letter written by a fourth grader, with big meaning for Martin.

“We’re not in this for the credit or the notoriety, or the public appreciation but it does help. Seeing something like this definitely gives you a little boost,” he said.

If you’d like to write a letter to a hero or nominate someone to receive a letter, visit dearheroesproject.com.

Breana Pitts

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