Donations sought for wreaths at veterans’ graves in Medina

Photos by Ginny Kropf: These wreaths were placed on graves in the veterans’ section of Boxwood Cemetery during a Wreaths Across American program last Dec. 19. Last year 261 wreaths were placed at veterans’ graves in Medina.

By Ginny Kropf, correspondent Posted 9 November 2021 at 8:01 am

MEDINA – On Dec. 18, Boxwood Cemetery will again be the site for a Wreaths Across America ceremony, honoring the country’s veterans.

Kathy Blackburn heads the local endeavor, which she started in 2015 with the basic seven wreaths provided by the national movement.

Blackburn shared the motto of Wreaths Across America is “Gathering safely as one nation to Remember the fallen, Honor those who served and are serving and Teach the next generation the value of freedom.”

From the initial seven free wreaths received at Boxwood Cemetery in 2015, the project has grown in Medina to more than 200 last year.

Blackburn is asking for donations and volunteers for this year’s Wreaths Across America ceremony in Boxwood Cemetery at noon on Dec. 18. She urges Boy Scout and Girl Scout troops to step up and volunteer, along with church groups and individuals. Cost of a wreath is $15.

Anyone can donate by logging on to and using the code NYBWC. Anyone interested in volunteering can call Blackburn at (585) 734-5801.

Wreaths Across America was started by Morrill Worcester of Harrington, Maine, who owned a wreath company. He had first visited Arlington National Cemetery as a 12-year-old paper boy when he won a trip to Washington, D.C. The site of all the graves left an impression which never left him.

In 1992, his company, Worcester Wreath, found itself with a surplus of wreaths near the end of the holiday season. Realizing he had an opportunity to honor the country’s veterans, he sought help from Main Senator Olympia Snowe and arrangements were made to have the wreaths shipped to Arlington and placed in one of the older sections of the cemetery which had been receiving fewer visitors each year.

Kathy Blackburn, organizer of the Wreaths Across American program in Boxwood Cemetery, and Jim Freas stand in front of the seven volunteers who laid the first wreaths, paying tribute to a veteran from each branch of the military and MIAs and POWs during a service last Dec. 19.

A local trucking company offered to transport the wreaths to Virginia. Volunteers from Worcester’s local VFW and American Legion gathered to tie red bows on each wreath. Members of the Maine State Society of Washington, D.C. helped organize the wreath laying.

This annual tribute went on quietly for several years until 2005, when a photo of the stones at Arlington adorned with wreaths and covered in snow circulated around the internet. Suddenly, the project received national attention and thousands of requests began pouring in from all over the country from people wanted to help with Arlington, to emulate the Arlington project at their cemeteries or to simply thank Worcester for honoring our nation’s heroes.

Worcester began sending seven wreaths to every state, one for each branch of the military and one for POW/MIAs. In 2006, simultaneous wreath-laying ceremonies were held at more than 150 locations across the country. The Patriot Guard Riders volunteered as escort for the wreaths going to Arlington, and this began the annual “Veterans Honor Parade” which travels the east coast early each December.

In 2007, Wreaths Across America was formed to continue and expand this effort and support other groups around the country who wanted to do the same.

In 2014, more than 700,000 memorial wreathes were laid at 1,000 locations in the United States and beyond, including ceremonies at the Pearl Harbor Memorial, Bunker Hill, Valley Forge and the sites of the Sept. 11 tragedies. The organization’s goal of covering Arlington National Cemetery was met that year with placement of 226,525 wreaths.

This year, 2,700 cemeteries are participating in Wreaths Across America. New this year will be wreaths honoring the United States Space Force.