Operation Sweet Dreams began as a Marine Ministries/Pen Pal group in the fall of 2002,
when Mrs. Farnum's Middle School students at St. John's Episcopal School decided to
write to and support the Marines of First Battalion, Fifth Marines. At that time, Mr.
Farnum, a Marine, was preparing to deploy. By early Spring of 2003, 1/5 was deployed to
Kuwait and eventually led the push across the border into Iraq starting Operation Iraqi
Freedom. During this deployment, St. Johns students and families wrote and sent care
packages to over 1,300 Marines in and attached to 1/5. The group also supported and
collected items for 1/5's injured during the deployment.The support of St. Johns was even
mentioned in Chaplain Carey Cash's book A Table in the Presence.
The following year, in 2004, St. John's Marine Ministries and Pen Pal Group continued its
relationship with 1/5 as they deployed yet another time to Iraq -- this time Fallujah.
Students and families continued to write letters, send care packages and support the
Marines' families locally. When 1/5 lost many in during Operation Vigilant resolve, our
organization rallied and collected $5,000 for every child of a fallen Marine in 1/5 AND
four children who lost their father with 2/7 (out of 29 Palms). We began to host family
events for Camp Pendleton units, whose hands are often tied when donations are needed.
These events included help at Christmas parties, babysitting for KVN events, Fall
Festivals, hosting a Spring Carnival at Lake O'Neil, rack presents for 1/5's single Marines
and throwing welcome home parties for returning units.
In 2004, St. John's PTF began adding to our efforts, beginning what would become an
annual drive -- Operation Christmas Spirit. Each year, the St. John's community, led by
Christy Wrightson and the PTF, collects toys, gifts, gift cards and cash donations. In the
past four years, Operation Christmas Spirit has collected: truckloads of Christmas items
to be given to deployed units, ipods for Wounded Warriors and Balboa Hospital's Wounded
in Action patients, and tons of items to be used at various Camp Pendleton Christmas
parties. In addition, each year we put together "Christmas Baskets" for families identified
by local commands as needing a little support over the holidays. The baskets are filled with
gifts for the kids and parents, Christmas ornaments and goodies, gift cards and between
$300 and $500 in cash.
In 2007, we decided we wanted to share St. Johns mission of fostering learning through
our newest project: Operation Bedtime Story. We video recorded Marines reading
children's books for their children and/or wives. The videos were carefully burned to
DVDs and shipped out to families as a nice suprise. Each video also came with the book read
in the recording or a box of chocolates. Our guinea pigs were CEB and 3/5, and the results
So far, Operation Sweet Dreams has served many Camp Pendleton units, to include: 1/5
(for OIF I, OIF II and it's 2007-2008 deployment), 2/4 in 2006, 3/1 in 2005, 3/5 for
their 2007-2008 deployment, SOI West, the Wounded Warrior House, and Balboa
Hospital (San Diego).