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Berlin, Ocean Pines News Worcester County Bayside Gazette Logo Berlin, Ocean Pines News Worcester County Bayside Gazette


Student collects holiday cards for military overseas

By Ally Lanasa, Staff Writer

(Dec. 10, 2020) MaryAnn Catherine Rutzler, the current Pure International Young Miss Eastern Shore, is spreading holiday cheer near and far this year.

MaryAnn Catherine Rutzler, the current Pure International Young Miss Eastern Shore, is working with Project Sparkle On to encourage youth to create homemade holiday cards and thank you cards for active military.

The 13-year-old from Newark serves as the recording secretary and “Diamond Girl” for Project Sparkle On, an outreach program that inspires youth to get involved through kindness and community service.

Project Sparkle On was founded by Layla Gainer, of Laurel Delaware, in early 2018. Gainer is the current Pre-Teen Miss Delaware.

“The mission of Project Sparkle On being an outreach for youth run by youth through community service spoke to my heart and what I want for everyone – to make someone smile no matter what they may be going through,” Rutzler said.

Rutzler, Gainer and other teens have hosted bake sales and yard sales to raise money for two initiatives, Kapes 4 Kids and #TeamKelsey, for patients in the hospital.

Kapes 4 Kids initiative will distribute over 500 superhero capes to children staying at children’s hospitals in the state, including Johns Hopkins.

Project Sparkle On also raised money for Kelsey Durst, 29, an international pageant assistant producer, who recently was diagnosed with breast cancer.

Rutzler, Gainer and others involved in Project Sparkle On are currently encouraging youth groups and local organizations to make cards for soldiers serving in the Middle East and elsewhere, who won’t be home for the holidays.

“The ‘Dear Soldier’ crusade drive is a great way for us to give back and thank those that are defending our freedoms,” said Rutzler’s mother, Colleen. “The cards will be collected and then we will ship them overseas.”

Rutzler and her mother met with Worcester County Sheriff Crisafulli last week to drop off a box at the Worcester County Sheriff’s Office, 1 W. Market St., for local residents or organizations to contribute homemade holiday cards and thank you cards for active military.

Another drop-off box is located at the Ocean Pines Community Center, 235 Ocean Parkway.

“Get out the markers, crayons and construction paper and make as many cards of hope and joy to make our military smile,” Colleen said.

Colleen added that the goal is to collect 1,000 cards for the campaign.

Letters for soldiers can also be mailed to 6705 Five Mile Branch Road, Newark, Maryland 21841 by Dec. 12.

For more information, contact Colleen at

Rutzler is in the eighth grade at Most Blessed Sacrament Catholic School on Racetrack Road in Berlin. She was recently elected her school’s student council president.

Currently, she is leading the campaign for classes to make holidays cards for ‘Dear Soldier.’

Rutzler added that last month Most Blessed Sacrament Catholic School collected new and gently used blankets for the homeless in conjunction with its diocesan theme for the school year.

This month, classes will compete in a door decorating contest.

Students will decorate their classroom doors based on classic Christmas songs for a contest.

“Once the doors are all decorated, each class will film a short explanation of what song their door is about and what each student contributed to the design,” she said.

Going forward into 2021, Rutzler said her school is considering some virtual activities for students.

Currently, Most Blessed Sacrament Catholic School is engaged in in-person instruction with some families choosing to participate in distance learning.

Rutzler is also involved with Worcester County 4-H Voyagers, One Year to Empowerment and Girl Scouts.

She has been a Conference, Regional and National All-American Scholar for Pop Warner Berlin Seahawks for three years.

In late October, Rutzler competed in a “Hocus Pocus”-themed online photo pageant by Mystic Productions, but Jamie Lynn Schaffers, from Hurlock, Maryland, won that pageant.

In addition, Rutzler is a Mystic National Angel, representing her passion for the American Cancer Society and Relay for Life of North Worcester County.

Rutzler’s passion was fostered by serving as a caregiver for her mother, who is an acute myeloid leukemia survivor, and her godmother who died from metastatic breast cancer after a 14-year battle.

Her local Relay for Life team is called Royalty for Relay.