Butte students are helping to send a sweet message of thanks to troops serving overseas.

Key Club members at Butte High on Wednesday boxed up more than 1,000 pounds of candy to send to servicemen and women as part of Operation Gratitude.

Elementary school students donated the candy - their Halloween take - to the effort, said Key Club President Courtney Schuelke, 18.

The national, nonprofit Operation Gratitude provides Christmas care packages for military personnel.

Kelsey Otten, 18, the club's reporter, said they learned that the troops in Iraq and Afghanistan sometimes give the candy to local children as a goodwill gesture.

"The kids will sometimes tell them where the roadside bombs are hidden," Otten said.

Letters of troop appreciation from Butte elementary students will be shipped with the care packages.

Troops who don't have family to send packages also appreciate the effort, Schuelke said.

The club assisted Butte dentists Drs. William Brennick and Tara Eller, who have participated in Operation Gratitude for the past few years.

"We definitely have more candy this year than last year," Eller said.

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