ELWOOD, Ill. (WLS) -- Saturday is National Wreaths Across America Day, when wreath-laying ceremonies will take place at more than 1,600 national cemeteries across the country, including Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery in Elwood.
A young Plainfield boy's mission is to make sure every grave will be recognized. Will Evans was only 8 years old when he visited Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery for the first time.
"We were driving home and I knew Abe Lincoln Cemetery existed, we'd never actually gone, so it was kind of on a whim that we whipped in there and took a drive around - we were blown away by what we saw," said Erin Evans, Will's mom.
"I was in shock 'cause I never knew that there was a special cemeteries just for people that have served, for veterans," Will said.
"We decided to go back that following May and have him participate in Flags for the Fallen where you go through and all 52,000 graves get flags," Erin Evans explained.
Will was so moved, he decided that in lieu of gifts for his October birthday, he'd ask for donations for Wreaths Across America Day.
"You would have a toy and you would play with it a bunch, but within a few weeks you would just, not really play with it," Will said.
"We decided to have Will create a little speech," his mom said. "And we could lasso the power of social media and see if we could get the word out at least to our family and friends."
"It was funny, his first goal that he set for himself was to raise 10 wreaths and we actually had him aim a little higher than that," said Nick Evans, Will's dad.
The donations came rolling in and Will kept track on the refrigerator. But even with his 200+ donations, the cemetery would only have enough wreaths to cover 40% of the graves.
"We decided why not try to collect pennies and stick with the military tradition of leaving coins on graves," Erin Evans said.
With just days to collect 30,000 pennies, it was back to social media, and the pennies came pouring in.
"It takes one person and one idea and sharing that idea to get other people excited and on board and the sky's the limit!" Erin Evans said.
"We have a tendency to kinda get siloed in our vision and it's kind of nice to see everyone from all walks of life come together to help a 9-year-old reach their goal," Nick Evans said.
The Wreaths Across America ceremony at Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery will be held Saturday at 11:00 a.m. It's open to the public.
Will's Wreaths: Plainfield boy on mission to honor each grave at Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery
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