Sauk Trail helps with hurricane relief

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For Sauk Trail’s third-graders it wasn’t about the money, but in the end it was.

Learning about each new hurricane that blew into existence almost nonstop in recent months, the students felt their compassion for the victims grow. What can we do, they asked teachers Ms. Kauper, Ms. Lindberg, Ms. Hustad and Ms. Collier.

Putting their heads together, the students discovered that the best way to help was with money and using the Red Cross to deliver it to those in most need.

“I felt responsible and caring because I could have the chance to help people who lost everything,” student Lucy Drye said.

The Florida and Texas hurricanes were terrible, but the disaster Puerto Ricans faced were nearly insurmountable. About 2,200 miles away and among the island’s 3.4 million residents live family members of kindergarten teacher Maria Elena Garcia-Peterman. When the third-graders connected the disaster’s perils up close and personal to a Sauk Trail teacher, their grief and a willingness to help became a passion.

Gathering in clusters, the students devised a fundraising plan to collect money. They brought in empty milk jugs to decorate and hold donations. They placed one in each classroom. Posters were created and hung throughout the school.

Then, an idea that made the third-grade teachers especially proud: the students would divide into groups and visit every class and make a presentation describing the hurricanes’ devastation and urge all students, their parents, and staff to make donations.

The campaign was an overwhelming success. Upon gathering the filled jugs, toting the coins and bills to a local bank for sorting and counting, they were shocked to learn that $2,000 had been contributed.

At first, their coins were converted to 20 one-hundred dollar bills, which were passed around to wide-eyed  ooohhhs and aaahhhs. Then, the big bills were exchanged for cashier’s checks: $1,000 designated to the American Red Cross and $1,000 going to a Puerto Rico aid organization called Beds for Kids.

On Nov. 14, officials from Madison’s Red Cross chapter visited Sauk Trail during a school-wide assembly to receive the checks and to profusely thank all those who contributed. They had a special message of thanks to the third-graders who brainstormed the campaign and conducted it to greatness.

“I was so proud when I handed the check to the Red Cross,” Taym Allawi said. “I was so happy we raised so much money.”

“I hope that the money we raised will really help the people in Florida, Texas and Puerto Rico,” Eileen Silbaugh said.

Added Jon ‘Taevia Smith: “I felt so excited when I found out we were raising money to help hurricane victims. I know some people lost their homes and needed help. I wanted to help the people with their problems.”

"For me it was so rewarding to see the children working together as a team through the fundraising process, and to see the excitement on their faces when they realized how much money they raised for others,'' Ms. Kauper said. "Well done!”

-- By Tom Kobinsky