State's students give for Katrina

Kids raised $1.32 million for relief efforts, offering pennies, allowances


They emptied their piggy banks, scoured their homes for loose change and gave up their lunch and snack money. Some held bake sales and sold lemonade.

Ben Reider, 9, a fourth-grader at Bollman Bridge Elementary School in Jessup, even looked behind his family's washing machine and found $1.50.

In what officials say was the largest charitable fundraising campaign ever mounted by the state's public school system, students throughout Maryland collected $1.32 million for families displaced by Hurricane Katrina.

And yesterday, Maryland's children earned a collective gold star from state Superintendent Nancy S. Grasmick at an assembly in Howard County.

"That's what all the children raised for the victims of Katrina," Grasmick told excited children in the Bollman Bridge Elementary School gymnasium. "Isn't that great!"

More than 680 of the state's 1,300 public schools participated in the Maryland Kids Care campaign, in which students were asked to collect pennies and other loose change for hurricane-displaced families and children from their homes in the Gulf Coast.

Grasmick said she was visiting Gilmor Elementary School in Baltimore when she heard about the devastation caused by Katrina.

"The students were very concerned with children in those states," she said. "I had an idea. I said to the children, `Would you be willing to give one penny?'"

The fundraising tally covered the period from Sept. 2 to Oct. 14, but relief efforts continue, Grasmick said. The total includes donations from all 24 school districts, with Montgomery County raising the most money -- $257,457.20.

School systems gave their donations to the American Red Cross, the Salvation Army and other charitable organizations, while the Maryland Department of Education tracked fundraising efforts.

Besides raising money, students collected school supplies and clothes and wrote letters to the hurricane's youngest victims. Some schools have adopted their counterparts in the Gulf Coast, sending money and other resources.

Independent, private and religious schools also undertook massive fundraising efforts.

The Archdiocese of Baltimore's 87 Catholic schools raised funds totaling in the six-figures, estimated Ronald J. Valenti, the archdiocese's superintendent. Efforts included collecting $35,000 in just two weeks for Catholic schools in the Archdiocese of Shreveport, La., Valenti said.

"The kids were marvelous," Valenti said. "They just jumped right in and full steam ahead."

Students at the McDonogh School in Owings Mills raised several thousand dollars for their sister school in Gretna, La. -- both institutions can trace their origins to a bequest from Baltimore native John McDonogh Jr.

Glenelg County School in Howard County raised $5,700, said Julia A. Southern, a school spokeswoman. Students donated $2 or more for the right to wear casual clothes instead of their school uniform for a day, while upper-level students engaged in "penny wars" among classes to raise money, Southern said.

At Bollman Bridge Elementary, pupils and staff raised $2,208.05 during a four-week campaign -- more than double the school's target of $1,000, said Jacqueline Torbit, a guidance counselor who coordinated the school's fundraising efforts.

One-gallon containers were allotted for each grade, and "the kids would come in each morning and drop in dollars, change, checks," Torbit said.

"The students realized that children [in the Gulf Coast] were affected by the hurricane, lost their homes, family and loved ones," she said. "They were sad and touched by that and wanted to do as much as they could."

Talon Bevan, 8, a fourth-grader, said she donated $7, which she took from her piggy bank.

"If I was them, I would be really sad because I would have lost most of my possessions and my family would be somewhere else," Talon said of children affected by the hurricane.

Besides the loose change he found behind the washer, Ben said he also gave a portion of his $10 allowance -- $2 -- to his school's fundraising campaign.

"I feel good because they don't have a home and they should get everything we do," he said.

Money raised

Hurricane Katrina relief efforts by Baltimore-area school systems:

Anne Arundel County: $121,341.78

Baltimore City: $19,802.87

Baltimore County: $133,345.40

Carroll County: $41,899.60

Howard County: $191,965.26

Montgomery County: $257,457.20

Prince George's County: $112,809.66

[Maryland Department of Education; figures cover efforts from Sept. 2 to Oct. 14.]

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