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Turning tears into action for hurricane victims

Cathedral fifth grade teacher, Amber Nielsen, left, laughs with her students, left to right, Meara Moen, Rokkyn Kavajecz and Owen Blomfelt as they sort some of the clothes they’ve collected for the hurricane relief efforts. Jed Carlson /

With red wagons, brownies and cake pops, Cathedral School fifth graders hope to boost hurricane relief efforts Saturday during the third annual Superior Spooktacular.

The students will march in the parade, which begins at 11 a.m., collecting donations of clothing, nonperishable food, diapers, wipes and cleaning supplies for those affected by hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria.

The class has been planning the campaign for more than a month.

"We started this about the second week of school," said Emilee Daniel, 10. "Harvey had happened. Irma was coming."

"Our teacher said it's horrible because these people lost everything and we want to help them, to give them something that they don't have," said her classmate Layton St. Arnold, 10.

Their teacher Amber Nielsen, a Texas native, shared videos of the hurricanes' aftermath with the students. Emotions bubbled close to the surface whenever they discussed the devastating storms.

"They just watched a video before you came in of Puerto Rico," Nielsen said. "It's just insane. I can't even explain it. I started crying. I get emotional when it's this kind of stuff."

"We've had a lot of crying in that room," Emilee said.

Nielsen has told the students that they're watching history happen.

"Because it's been the most hurricanes in the least amount of time," said Maggie Mueller, 10.

They decided to take action through a service learning project. Students turned in 19 pages full of ideas, ways they could help.

"They are 100 percent on top of it and excited," Nielsen said. "I couldn't believe some of the ideas that they came up with, like a 5K and a soup night."

Some would take too much time or organization to offer immediate relief, she said, so they'll save those for local fundraising efforts in the future.

The class will be collecting needed items through Nov. 17.

Wednesday, they tackled a few garbage bags full of clothing donated by three families, created posters and prepared parade candy.

Layton said he's already donated cleaning supplies.

Maggie said she would like to donate some of her old clothes, but they're set to be handed down to her little sister. Instead, she'll bring in some of her sister's clothes.

"I want to donate some toys and some clothing because I live in a family of six," Emilee said. "So we've got a lot of things to donate."

They included stuffed animals in the mix for the children who have lost so much.

"They need something to hug," Maggie said.

The students are determined to help.

"We don't know what it feels like," Emilee said. "The worst thing I know of is a blizzard that happened in kindergarten and at the flood my house filled up two inches. But that wasn't that bad. That's the worst I know of, but this is just huge."

The fifth graders will also host a bake sale during the Spooktacular Pumpkin Patch event and reach out to local businesses for help to cover shipping costs. They plan to send items to Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico.

Items and monetary donations can also be brought to Cathedral School during school hours, 7:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. All items should be clean and free of stains or tears.

On each of their posters, the students printed Matthew 25:40: "Truly I tell you, whatever you did for the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me."

The Halloween parade starts at 11 a.m. Saturday. The route will wind down Banks Avenue from Broadway Street to North 14th Street. The Pumpkin Patch will be held from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. at North 13th Street and Banks Avenue. It will include food vendors, kids' activities, bouncy houses, candy, music, games and more. The first 300 children to stop by will receive a free pumpkin.

Truck aid

Jeff Foster Trucking is involved in hurricane relief efforts.

Company driver Wade Grenke of Oconto Falls, Wis., started his journey Aug. 29 when he left for Houston, Texas, to assist the USPS in fuel delivery post-Hurricane Harvey.

Two weeks later, he was dispatched to Naples, Fla., to haul fuel post-Hurricane Irma.

On Oct. 2, he flew to Puerto Rico post-Hurricane Maria where his truck and diesel-loaded tanker had just arrived via barge.

Grenke is currently parked in the FEMA camp in Puerto Rico where he showers, eats and socializes. He sleeps in his truck.

Although the 18-wheeler is not able to travel most roads due to debris, Grenke's truck acts as a fueling station for smaller trucks that distribute fuel across the island.

Grenke is likely to spend the rest of the year in Puerto Rico as the island rebuilds.