Throughout the month of February, it’s hard not to feel love in the air with numerous celebrations occurring in Loveland. Among activities of interest, the Fire and Ice Festival lights up downtown and the internationally recognized valentine re-mailing program hand-stamps messages to sweethearts around the world. Another widely recognized tradition can be seen while driving the streets of Loveland: giant red hearts of love notes between families, couples, friends and businesses hang throughout town. Have you ever wondered how they are made?
The hanging of hearts started around forty-five years ago by the Loveland Jaycees. Originally, the hearts only included generic sayings such as, “Be Mine,” “True Love,” and “Always.” In 1992, the Thompson Valley Rotary Club (LTVR) took over the program and started adding personal love messages. What was once a fun night of Rotarians getting together to create a few dozen hearts quickly became an enormous project with hundreds of hearts being requested. During this time of growth, the hearts were painted in Jeff Allen Young’s barn, who was a Loveland resident and LTVR member. Noticing they needed help, Jeff’s daughter Holly recruited fellow classmates as a part of the National Honors Society at Thompson Valley High School (TVHS). Since 2001, the TVHS NHS students have hand-painted all of the hearts hanging in town.
Today, the Valentine’s Heart Program is capped at 360 hearts. On December 26th, the application for the program is opened to the community. Last year, the hearts sold out by January 14th and this year the hearts sold out even faster on January 8th. Working closely with the city, which hangs the hearts around town, the students have roughly two weeks to hand-paint 360 hearts.
Each year, the hearts are recycled. Students start their process by repainting all of the wood hearts bright red. Afterward, students carefully begin reading the messages people have submitted. Even though each submission is limited to 25 characters long, one-by-one the students figure out a way to make every single heart special.
We recently sat down with Tamara Julian (T.J.), who has led the Valentine Heart Program for the past four years. When asked about the students’ involvement with the program, she said, “It’s everything. For the kids, it brings about creativity and volunteerism. They have so much pride in what they do and how they’re doing it. They remember exactly which sign they created and the story behind it.” The program has grown so large that T.J. is considering reaching out to other clubs at Thompson Valley High School to discuss the possibility of helping next year.
The Valentine Heart Program is a win-win for everyone. Every year, all proceeds from the hearts are given back to the community through various organizations of LTVR’s choosing. Students also have a chance to learn about volunteerism while keeping this wonderful and longstanding tradition alive. Isabelle Johnson, current TVHS NHS 2017-18 student said, “My favorite part about painted hearts is getting to drive through town and see hearts that I remember painting hanging on the light posts. It’s pretty fun!” The next time you drive around town you may notice hearts that are kissing, glowing or decorated in other unique ways. Individually and hand-crafted, TSD students bring these beautiful stories of love to life.
A special thank you to the Loveland Thompson Valley Rotary for heading the Valentine Heart Program and continuing to involve TSD students in this beloved community tradition!