Students in giving spirit

Soda Creek fifth-graders raise money to help hurricane relief

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— With cookies, brownies and wristbands, fifth-graders at Soda Creek Elementary School raised more than $1,000 this fall for the American Red Cross.

The money will help with relief efforts in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, which flooded New Orleans and devastated the Gulf region after striking coastlines Aug. 28.

Teacher Thomas Keenan said students were talking about the disastrous storm on the first day of school this year.

Keenan said Jessica Bertrand, 11, came to him and said simply, "I want to do something."

During the next two months, along with students in fifth-grade classes taught by Cindy Gantick and Naomi Lang, Keenan's students did several somethings.

They held a bake sale with treats including cookies, brownies and lemon bars. They ordered about 200 multi-colored "Katrina Relief 2005" wristbands online and sold them at Soda Creek for $3 each. They collected and counted money from the sales and collaborated with second-graders to collect donations.

And they learned how to respond to tragedy.

"It made me upset to see people with not even food or anything," said Liesel Lord, 10.

"Their houses got wrecked -- it felt good to help them out," said Hannah Erickson, also 10.

The students' efforts did not go unnoticed in the community. Jill Leary, president of the local Wells Fargo Bank, added $500 to the bank's American Red Cross account to match the Soda Creek fundraising. Leary said the bank also matched $500 worth of fundraising for the Red Cross from Strawberry Park Elementary.

Strawberry Park Elementary Principal Mark MacHale said students at the school took donations in the cafeteria, placed advertisements in the school's daily bulletin and had help from parents to raise the money.

"A few kids got together spontaneously and raised $500," MacHale said, naming students Lilly Peterson, Shannon Parks, Raleigh Schaffer, Will Peterson, Madi Owens, Shannon Ross, Mariah Hoots, Cassidy Fischer and Jessica Pillow. "It warmed my heart to see them do it -- we didn't offer any incentives or host an official school function, they just did it because they saw the need and followed through."

Keenan said his students are not done giving. They recently adopted a Routt County family to support through the holiday season.

The fundraising for Katrina relief gave at least one of his students a lasting lesson.

"It taught you to be grateful for what you have," said Emily Spiess, 10.

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