OLYMPIA, Wash. – Instead of flowers or candy, thousands of South Sound veterans and first responders are getting handmade Valentines this year, thanks to their Congressman.

“Valentine’s Day is more than about inhaling sugar,” said Rep. Denny Heck, D-Wash. 10th District. “What a wonderful opportunity to say ‘Thank you’ to veterans and this year first responders of our community.”

It’s the fifth Valentine’s Day that Heck has asked students from Pierce and Thurston Counties to make cards for public servants.

With the recent Amtrak crash and last month’s killing of Pierce County Deputy Daniel McCartney, Heck decided to include first responders this year.

Heck said last year the children made 5,000 cards; this year they sent out 12,000.

His schedule required him to be in Washington D.C. on Wednesday, so he delivered the Valentines at senior homes and fire and police stations Monday.

“The nature of serving in Congress these days,” said Heck, “This may be the best part of my job all year long.”