INDIAN TRAIL – Students at Sardis Elementary School are reaching north across several states to lend a “helping hand” to those affected by Hurricane Sandy.
Sardis recently launched a school-wide endeavor to raise money for the American Red Cross that will go toward the organization’s disaster relief efforts in New York, Pennsylvania and other areas hit hard by the storm.
The fundraiser, dubbed “Helping Hands for Hurricane Relief,” was launched last week and runs through Nov. 21. Students and staff members can purchase a handprint for $1, write their name on it and display it on the school’s walls. All proceeds from the fundraiser will go to support the American Red Cross, and a representative from the organization will visit the school on Nov. 27 to collect the money.
Media coordinator Blair Austin is heading up the fundraiser. Several teachers approached Austin, who also is the school’s globalization committee chairperson, and said their classes wanted to do something to support the hurricane relief effort.
“We decided instead of individual classes doing their own thing, our globalization committee met and talked about what we could do as a school,” Austin said. “We did something before called, ‘Helping Hearts for Haiti.’ We decided instead to do ‘Helping Hands for Hurricane Relief.’”
The effort caught on immediately, she said. The school raised $93 in the first day and each day has seen that total creep higher and higher. Austin said hundreds of hands now line the hall, bearing all colors of the rainbow and conveying what she calls a message of “hope after the storm.”
Austin said the students have responded well as they’ve learned about the magnitude of damage the hurricane has caused. Some students and teachers have friends and family members directly affected, while others simply try to grasp the enormity of the disaster.
“They can’t believe it when they see (the destruction),” she said. “I’m the media coordinator, so I’ve been pulling some books about hurricanes to read (to the kids). When I show them pictures about hurricanes and they see (coverage) on the news, they just can’t believe it (that) people don’t have a house anymore, there’s no power. They’re just in shock.”
Austin said the fundraiser has been successful not only in the amount of money it’s raised for the Red Cross, but also because students have been directly involved with helping others. The fifth-graders are responsible for putting the hands up in the hall, while the younger grades are just excited about purchasing the hands, she said.
“This is a way for kids to help,” Austin said. “I know some people (donate directly) to the Red Cross. When I was watching the (benefit) concert, I texted in and donated, but kids can’t do that. This is something that the younger kids can do. It’s a real-life thing for them.”
Beyond the initial hype of getting the chance to play a role in hurricane relief through Helping Hands, Austin said, is the life lessons students learn from the project.
“One of the big pushes in Union County is globalization, letting kids understand that there’s a world out there beyond the walls of our school (and) when things happen in the community and in the world, we need to reach out because it could be us that needs help someday,” she said, adding “there are people who need our help, and we need to realize it. Kids learn by real examples, this is an actual
teachable moment to be able to do that.”