Halfway across the world from the devastation caused by a series of tsunamis that killed more than 150,000 people, some Steamboat Springs students are donating their time and money to help the massive relief effort.
For the past week, Strawberry Park Elementary School third-grader Kassidy Fischer has spent her lunch period seated behind a small table in the school's cafeteria, where, with the help of some friends, she has led an effort to collect tsunami aid money.
"Help the tsunami victims. Donate your money here!" reads the sign Kassidy made and affixed to the front of the table. And the school's students, staff members and parents have answered her donations requests to the tune of $600 through Monday afternoon.
"I didn't realize we were going to raise so much money," Kassidy said Monday after a parent dropped $100 in cash into the donation box. "I thought we'd get about $50.
"I hope it will be able to help sick people get food and send them doctors."
Kassidy's fund-raising effort was inspired through conversations she had with her mother and sister about the tsunamis.
"I feel really, really bad for all the people," Kassidy said.
Kassidy said all the money she raises will be donated to the Red Cross. Her fund-raiser ends today.
Kassidy's sister Kailey, a seventh-grader at Steamboat Springs Middle School, has teamed with art teacher Talya Dornbush, AmeriCorps mentor Melissa Calhoon and several other students to start a fund-raiser there, too.
Last Friday, the middle school began a weeklong "Penny Challenge" that pits groups of students against each other in a friendly competition to raise money for tsunami-related aid.
Students drop pennies into large, empty water jugs bearing the name of their team of teachers. By placing nickels, dimes, quarters and paper money into the jugs of other teacher teams, the students can subtract from the penny totals of their peers.
"If you put 100 pennies in your jug but I put in a $1 bill, you're back to zero," Dornbush said.
Pitting teams against each other helps raise more money, Dornbush said.
"Either the students will respond to the altruistic desire to give to charity or they'll be inspired to beat their classmates," she said. Regardless, students will become part of an international effort to help tsunami victims.
"If they're participating in aid for a world crisis then they're being part of the world instead of just studying it in a text book," Dornbush said.
Eighth-grader Meghan Hanrahan cleaned her room during the weekend to collect as much loose change as she could find. She brought a baggie with nearly $20 in coins to the school Monday and dropped them in the donation jugs.
"I want to do everything I can to help out," Hanrahan said. "I just feel so badly for everybody. They lost their homes, food, belongings, family and friends. Every penny counts."
The Penny Challenge ends Friday, and the winning team will receive a deluxe ice cream party. All money raised will go to the United Nations Children's Fund, or UNICEF.
"Our hope is to raise $1,000," Dornbush said. She hopes local businesses, corporations or individuals will express interest in matching the school's donations. Anyone interested in the fund-raiser can contact the school at 879-1058.
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