Kids help HaitiYouth have given up their keepsakes, artwork, teddy bears and even birthday presents to help the survivors of the Jan. 12 earthquake in Haiti. And they continue to give.
By: Maria Lockwood, Superior Telegram
Youth have given up their keepsakes, artwork, teddy bears and even birthday presents to help the survivors of the Jan. 12 earthquake in Haiti. And they continue to give.
At the Northland Chapter of the American Red Cross, more than $70,000 in donations have flooded in, earmarked for Haiti.
“In times of crisis and when people need help, the people who live in Northwest Wisconsin and Northeast Minnesota never hesitate to step up and help,” said Howie Leathers, community resources coordinator for the chapter. “The part that never ceases to amaze me is that our neighbors will write a check, hold a fundraiser, ask someone to help with the project for people they will never have the opportunity to meet.”
On Feb. 13, Dayton Podvin gave his birthday away. The 9-year-old gathered with friends to hold an Olympic-themed party at the Red Barn ice rink in Superior. They competed in speed skating, biathalon, the luge and short track, earning medals.
“I liked it,” Dayton said. “It was fun.”
But none of his friends brought presents. Instead, they donated money for Haiti.
The idea came from Dayton’s parents. It took them about half a day to convince the Superior boy to forego presents this year.
“He wasn’t so sure in the beginning,” said his mother, Linda Podvin, but eventually he decided to do it.
“He said, ‘I have more than I need; I don’t need more toys,’” said Dayton’s father, Kevin Podvin. “He got a good lesson from that.”
An even bigger lesson was waiting for the family three days later when they presented the $270 check to the Red Cross. Staff sat down with them and showed Dayton what his money could do for people in Haiti. The $270 could buy five shelters – tents complete with supplies like pans and other basic necessities — each of which could house up to five people.
“For such a small effort it was amazing what kind of an impact it can have,” said Linda Podvin.
Dayton’s parents thought of it as a teaching tool to get their son thinking about others instead of himself.
“It was a great experience,” said Kevin Podvin. “If you can teach them how to give when they’re young, maybe they’ll do it as adults.”
After their visit to the Red Cross, they also saw what a difference one child can make.
“I did a good deed for Haiti,” Dayton said. “A lot of people need that food and everything.”
He did get a gift from the Red Cross for a job well done — a knit cap.
“I like the hat they gave me,” the 9-year-old said. “I wear it to school every day.”
Something to hold
Last week, approximately 200 teddy bears traveled to Haiti to cheer up orphans. Students at Cathedral School in Superior collected the cuddly toys during their Hugs 4 Haiti campaign. Kindergarten teacher Arlene Nordeen came up with the idea. She lofted it to her students, who latched onto it.
“I think when people in Haiti get the teddy bears they will be real happy to see them,” said kindergarten student McKenzie Taly.
“So they have something to hold onto,” added her classmate Keyten DeGraef.
All the children in the school – approximately 200 – participated in the project. The kindergarten students said they hoped the bears would bring joy to children in Haiti.
“You’re making a difference in a different way,” said Nordeen. “This is personal from a child to a child.”
The children in her class are aware of what’s happening in Haiti, she said, because of television news. And the chance to help came just as Lent was starting. Sharing, caring and helping others is a “total Lenten message,” Nordeen said.
Youth could make the decision to give up a bear or not.
“When (Nordeen) talked about it I was a little scared to give up my teddy bear,” said McKenzie. But she was happy when her teacher told the class they could also just buy a new one or not participate.
“You get to decide,” McKenzie said.
With the help of family members, she collected three bears to donate.
Nordeen said the toys would be shipped to Catholic Relief Services for Rainbow House, an orphanage in Port-Au-Prince.
“I’d like to go with them and pass them out to every child just to see the expression on their faces,” the teacher said. “They’re so lost. They have nothing to love. If they could hang onto something I think it would help so much.”
Fundraisers for Haiti have continued on both sides of the bridge since the earthquake hit. Leathers said numerous schools, including Lake Superior College, Pike Lake Elementary and Churchhill Elementary in Cloquet have donated funds for Haiti relief efforts. In Poplar, youth and other members of Peace Lutheran Church collected $3,000 for relief efforts last month, earmarked for the ECLA Disaster Response program. A comedy benefit at Aces on 29th, “Laughter Brings Relief,” netted another $500 for the Red Cross, according to Chuck Androsky, who helped organize the benefit. Student council members from Superior Middle School sold suckers and collected donations prior to the Valentine's Day dance to raise money for the people of Haiti. More than $1,000 was raised during the "Hearts for Haiti" campaign. And Wisconsin Indianhead Technical College students recently raised more than $1,700 to be sent to the Doctors Without Borders organization for the work they are doing in Haiti.
Last weekend, University of Wisconsin students collected about $1,500 for Red Cross efforts in Haiti. Students from the World Student Association and Black Student Union held a “Soul Food Dinner” with a silent auction. Students, faculty and staff provided items from different parts of the world for the auction.
“I think this kind of effort is important because this gives Haitians motivation as they know that different relief efforts are going on and we are there for their support,” said Saroj Dhital, president of the World Student Association.
With their eyes on Haiti, residents are making a difference.
“The earthquake in Haiti has brought the good out in our fellow Northlanders,” Leathers said, young and old alike.