SAN ANTONIO -

Her mother says Jayci Derby may be only 13, but she’s got an army behind her who are raising money and helping her lay wreaths at the graves of fallen heroes.

The Stevenson Middle School 7th-grader has spent the last few years applying for grants, asking for donations everywhere she goes, and recruiting other young people to follow her in her quest to make a difference. 

Since she started laying wreaths in 2011 in her nonprofit called Wreaths Across America, she’s raised more than $20,000 and placed 2,000 evergreen decorations at the tombs of military men and women.

The young go-getter said it started simply.

“I went to go visit my grandfather at Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery and I noticed that most of the heroes laid to rest there had no adornment for the Christmas holiday. And that made my mind click,” said Derby.

The click has led to grants being given and awards as well for the young girl, who has spent her summer continuing her quest to buy more wreaths.

Kohl’s Department Store awarded her a $1,000 Kohl’s Cares scholarship, beating out 35,000 other nominees nationwide. Winners were chosen based on initiative, leadership, generosity and project benefits and outcome.

Her fundraising has been remarkable, creating t-shirts to sell and organizing dine and donate events at local restaurants.

She’s also found sponsors.

"Many people helped me in this project, like Hyatt, HEB, Digital Banners, places like that, local companies. It's awesome,” she said.

She has also created her own scholarship in honor of that grandfather who started it all.

Jayci’s Wreaths for Heroes/Charlie Moore Memorial Scholarship is open to students of the Northside Independent School District who are dependents of active-duty or veterans of any branch of the United States Armed Services who have a service-connected disability, or survivors of service members who died while on active duty, and are classified as seniors in the current school year.

You can also check out Jayci’s Facebook page at Wreaths Across America.

For a list of recent stories Ursula Pari has done, click here.