Mariah Riley of Shumway holds up a handful of cards she and others made to distribute to Stewardson-Strasburg and Windsor high school seniors.

For some, something as simple as a card can help them connect with others in a time when physical connections are not possible.

Mariah Riley, 20, of Shumway hopes to create that connection with cards of her own. Riley set out to make cards for the senior students of Stewardson-Strasburg and Windsor high schools.

“When I graduated from high school, I remember getting a lot of cards of encouragement, among other things. For me, it was very meaningful, and it allows people to express how proud they are, as many people don’t get the chance to say it to you in person,” Riley said. “It is also a tangible option for this time as it keeps physical distance but allows for connection.”

Riley spearheaded a group that is making cards for the 34 senior students of both high schools. She said she is hoping to have four for each senior, making it a total of 136 cards made.

Riley is a 2018 graduate of Stewardson-Strasburg High School and is currently a Lake Land College student, with plans to transfer to Kaskaskia College in the fall. With Riley being not far removed from the high school graduation milestone, she said she wants seniors to have the same special moments she had two years ago.

“I want these seniors to be able to realize how much they have been given and how much they have to be thankful for instead of focusing on all of the things that have been taken. It is really easy to get into that negative state of mind, so I want them to be reminded of how important and capable they are despite not having those final senior experiences,” Riley said.

Riley said she has a few fun ways planned to distribute the cards in coming weeks but could not reveal those surprises.

Riley also enlisted the help of some community members who are a part of a Facebook group she created called Shelby County Blessings. In the social media group, invited members share links to their Amazon wish lists, and members purchase gifts for each other and choose whether or not to identify themselves as the gift giver.

Riley said she was part of a similar social media group and wanted to bring it to the Shelby County community. Some group members have even helped in her quest to honor the 2020 graduates.

“They played a major part in honoring the seniors in this simple way, which just goes to show how willing they are to bless others at any time and any way that they can,” Riley said. “I can’t wait to see what this group accomplishes in coming years. The ladies in this group are the real blessing, not the gifts we send.”

Riley said there are plans for the group members to meet in person once the COVID-19 regulations have ceased.

Like with the Shelby County Blessings group, Riley said she hopes her act of kindness for the Stewardson-Strasburg and Windsor seniors will inspire them to help others. She hopes the cards will help the seniors reflect on the good things in their lives, not just the sometimes negative things that have came from this pandemic.

“I think we all enjoy getting handwritten cards as texting doesn’t always give that heartfelt message. It makes us slow down and really reflect on what positive things we want to share with the next generation,” Riley said. “It is my hope that the Class of 2020 will be full of gratitude and never miss a chance to inspire those around them.”

Kaitlin Cordes can be reached at kaitlin.cordes@effinghamdailynews.com or 217-347-7151 ext. 132.

Kaitlin Cordes can be reached at kaitlin.cordes@effinghamdailynews.com or 217-347-7151 ext. 132.

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