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Pence surprises local girl with letter, signed photo

PHOTO: Vice President Mike Pence sent this signed picture to 10-year-old Scarlett Wilke of Peru after the two were photographed together at an October rally in Indianapolis.

BY JARED KEEVER - jkeever@perutribune.com

A local student got quite a surprise in the mail earlier this spring after she sent Vice President Mike Pence a Christmas card.

“My dad was picking me up from the bus stop and it was in his car and he told me to open it,” 10-year-old Scarlett Wilke told the Tribune on Tuesday.

The package, which contained a signed photo and letter, was the topper of a series of events that started months earlier.

Scarlett and her dad, Ryan Wilke, traveled to Indianapolis in October to see Pence speak at a rally.

“We were in the front row, so we got to shake hands with him and take a picture with him,” Scarlett said. “He said to ‘pray hard, study hard and work hard.’”

Not long after, the father and daughter decided to send a card to Pence wishing him well. They enclosed the photo that was snapped in the fall.

“He sent it back to us and signed the picture and wrote a note to me,” she said.

The letter thanked her for the card and noted the signed photograph enclosed.

“You have a bright future ahead of you, Scarlett,” Pence wrote to the then-fourth grader at Blair Pointe Elementary. “Keep working hard in school, and you will live your dreams. God bless you!”

Wilke said he encouraged his daughter to share her story so that others will know that putting forth an effort to speak with elected officials can succeed in reaching them and make a difference. It’s a lesson he said he tries to teach his daughter.

“I think the younger you start kids, the better,” he said.

Scarlett said the keepsakes now hold special places in her home.

“The picture is on the living room bookshelf,” she said. “And the letter is in my bedroom on the wall.”