By Karl Weisel (USAG Wiesbaden)April 15, 2011
WIESBADEN, Germany - When the tsunami and earthquakes struck Japan March 11, many people's thoughts turned to those in harm's way.
Wiesbaden military community members worried about Japanese friends and colleagues still serving with the U.S. military in the devastated country.
Students in Ms. Green's class at Aukamm Elementary School wanted to do something to help. "The teacher came to me and said they wanted to do something," said Michele Brashear, secretary of Aukamm's Parent Teacher Association. "My son (Ryan) is in Ms. Green's class."
After considering various ways to raise money - including a yard sale, car wash, baked goods or wild flower sales - the students opted to repeat a successful fundraising effort from the year before - collecting quarters for a coin line throughout the school. The fundraising method was introduced to the school in 2010 by parent volunteer Rachel Berger as a way to assist those impacted by the earthquake in Haiti.
"They decided on the coin line because the oldest Berger boy (Nick) would have been in fourth grade this year," said Aukamm Elementary School Principal Sue Gurley, referring to Ms. Green's students who were friends of Rachel's children. The family left Wiesbaden last year to follow Air Force Master Sgt. Michael Berger who reported to Japan for a new assignment.
Members of the faculty and student body were saddened last September by the news that Rachel had died suddenly during a visit to Australia, her native land, while on the way to the new assignment in Japan.
"Our quarters will help the people of Japan," said fourth-grader Ryan Brashear, adding that he wanted to help after thinking about his friend Nick in Japan. "I'm hoping none of the radiation gets to him."
"A lot of people lost their homes and a lot of people died," said classmate Daymahri Reneau-Jackson. "The tsunami destroyed gas and sewer lines and the nuclear power plants which spread radiation - the biggest problem now in Japan."
Reaneau-Jackson added that he was glad to take part in the relief effort, saying, "so we can help the people of Japan - to show them that we care about them."
"I feel good because we know a lot of people lost their loved ones and homes," said fellow fourth-grader Alexis Jones. "I'm happy that our money will help them rebuild their homes and get furniture."
"Last year for Haiti we collected $1,800," said Kahlil Gardner, another student in Ms. Green's fourth-grade class. "I think it's a great idea because we have a lot of money. We're going to deliver it to the American Red Cross and they'll donate it to the Red Cross in Japan."
"We're helping Japan and helping others who don't have money anymore," said Jonathon Nielsen. "I hope it helps the people of Japan to rebuild their houses and give them more food and clothing."
"I feel so happy," said fifth-grader Taro Yoshida, who had only made the transition from Japan to Wiesbaden seven months earlier. "I have a lot of family members there."
Fifth-grader Tony Geremia was another proud contributor to the fundraising effort. "My mom just put $100 in the bank and exchanged it for 400 quarters," he said. "She did it last year for Haiti too."
As students throughout the school took turns placing coins along strips of masking tape running through the Aukamm Elementary School corridors, Gurley beamed with satisfaction. "This feels great. The kids love doing this. "This is all their initiative.
"Last year we raised $1,800, and if we get even half of that we'll be happy," said the school principal.
The final tally by day's end - $1,902.50 in quarters, $142.29 in various currency and $718 in checks for a grand total of $2,762.79.
More help for Japan
The Aukamm fundraiser was one of several aimed at helping tsunami survivors. Other efforts included a clothing and basic necessities drive by Wiesbaden military community family members and a bake sale at Hainerberg Elementary School which raised $1,200 for relief efforts -- money also donated to the Red Cross for Japan relief.