CHAPPAQUA, N.Y. -- Taryn Davis, 2011 CNN Hero of the Year Winner, is more popular than Katy Perry.
At Seven Bridges Middle School in Chappaqua, at least.
Davis, who runs the American Widow Project, made a surprise appearance to meet students at Seven Bridges on Wednesday, Dec. 20, whom she had been Skypeing and writing to for a year.
Davis started the American Widow Project, which assists widows and widowers whose spouses have been killed in war, after her husband Michael was killed in Iraq.
Students wrote letters to Davis offering their encouragement, praise, and thanks for all the good that she is doing with her project. Her story was connected to the students learning about Veterans Day and the school’s ongoing inclusion of character education.
Davis, who had been touched by her interaction with the kids, flew in from Austin, Texas, to greet the kids, receiving a hero's welcome as kids screamed, asking for autographs and pictures.
"It's nice to meet y'all!" Davis exclaimed. "Instead of writing y'all, I wanted to come see y'all."
Davis talked to the kids about how she got through her husband's death (she refers to him as Hot Dead Dude) and what made her want to help other widows and widowers.
"It was really hard to keep a positive attitude," Davis said. "But I thought of Michael's amazing attitude. I get to see these women overcoming obstacles."
Through her charity, Davis has helped more than 1500 women, won numerous awards, including the CNN Hero of the Year Award, and been around the world.
"You are cooler than Batman, Spider-Man and Superman," one student wrote.
Davis said Michael was a huge dork who loved Star Trek and played Dungeons and Dragons. A math major, he often asked Davis to send him calculus textbooks.
"He wanted to be challenged," Davis said. "His other soldiers looked up to him. One soldier said Michael inspired him to go back to college. He was an amazing person that I am deeply in love with."
Brian O'Connor, a teacher at Seven Bridges, helped connect the students with Davis.
"When I first told the students I talked to her, you would think I had talked to Katy Perry," O'Connor said. "There's a lot our students can learn from her."
Davis said she was humbled by the reaction of the students.
"I wish all the widows could be here," Davis said. "It's the best way to go into Christmas. This school rocks."
For more information on Davis' charity, visit www.americanwidowproject.org .
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