Students work together to help hurricane victims

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— Students from across Routt County have raised more than $10,000 for Hurricane Katrina victims during the past couple of weeks.

The fundraising efforts, which have included bake sales, dog washes and hat days, have taken place at almost every school in the area.

"I am amazed at the power that young people have, and the ... results that come out of their efforts are major. It's meaningful, and it's substantial," said Steamboat Springs Middle School teacher Lisa Lorenz, one of several teachers at the school who helped students organize fundraisers.

At the middle school, students formed a hurricane assistance team, or HAT, and designated a day during which students could pay a dollar to wear a hat. Hats usually aren't allowed at the school.

The effort was a success -- many students wore hats to school, some wearing multiple hats piled on their heads. Those students paid $1 for every hat they wore. Many students who didn't wear hats made donations, as well. The event raised more than $1,000. Those funds were matched with $500 from Wells Fargo Bank and $200 from First National Bank.

The students who helped organize the fundraiser were astonished at the response and, most of all, were glad to help.

"You can't even imagine ... what it's like for them," eighth-grader Morgan Cox said about hurricane victims.

"It's like we have everything here, and they have nothing," eighth-grader Kailey Fischer added.

"The things on the news were kind of scary. We just wanted to help," seventh-grader Jessie Dunlop said.

Students said they learned important lessons during the fundraising process.

"Kind of knowing you can make a difference -- a big difference," Cox said. "If something were happening in Steamboat, we know we'd want people down there helping us."

Students plan to have the hat days every other week throughout the year.

At Soroco High School, the leadership class organized a benefit dinner to support victims of Hurricane Katrina. Local restaurants and individuals donated supplies for the meal. More than $2,500 was raised.

At Strawberry Park Elem--entary School, a group of third-grade girls made fliers and a poster asking people to donate money, and they put a donation jar in the school's main office, Principal Mark MacHale said. The girls raised $250, which was matched by a student's mother. The $500 total was matched by Wells Fargo Bank, transforming the girls' efforts into a $1,000 donation.

Another group of Strawberry Park students asked for donations from students at lunch and raised $50 in change, which Wells Fargo matched. Additional fun----draising projects are in the works.

At Soda Creek Elementary School, fifth-graders sponsored a bake sale and raised $200, and students are selling wristbands and roses to raise additional funds. Again, students have initiated the efforts, with Jessica Bertrand as one of the leaders.

Soon after Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast, Clare Southworth, an eighth-grader at Whiteman Primary School, organized a bake sale. She got help from Urban Laundry, a downtown store owned by a family involved with the school. The bake sale raised $2,100 for the Red Cross.

Last Saturday, students at Whiteman Primary School worked a bake sale and pet wash. The event was organized by sixth-grader Shaq Torrella and was held at Paws 'n Claws 'n Things. The students raised $1,000 and donated the funds to help the animals affected by Hurricane Katrina.

The 32 students at the North Routt Community Charter Sch--ool pulled together and made individual donations, which totaled more than $300.

The school also is working to collect donations of furniture, clothing, toys and other supplies for a family affected by Hurricane Katrina that is moving to the area.

At Steamboat Springs High School, students have held fundraisers, and the school's primary fundraiser continues through the end of the week.

Called "Penny Wars," the competition pits classes against one another in a battle to raise funds. Each class has a jug in the commons area. Pennies count as positive points, and nickels, dimes and quarters were negative. The game motivates students to fill their own jars with pennies and put other denominations in the jugs of other classes. The change will be counted Friday.

At Lowell Whiteman School, students organized a bake sale that raised more than $1,300. One person paid $500 for a cookie.

All students undoubtedly will forget some of the things they learn in class, Strawberry Park Principal MacHale said.

"But helping people -- that's a lifelong skill."

-- To reach Susan Cunningham, call 871-4203 or e-mail scunningham@steamboatpilot.com

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