The Edmond Sun

May 21, 2013

Edmond high schools aid Moore, OKC tornado victims

Donations continue through today at local schools

Mark Schlachtenhaufen
The Edmond Sun

EDMOND — Sometimes good things come from texting.

Monday afternoon, Sydney Richardson, who will be Santa Fe’s student body president next year, was driving home and it was raining. Once home, she talked to her mother, who told her about the tornado in Moore. Then she began seeing the damage on TV.

“It was devastating,” Richardson said. “We watched it all night long. I just felt like we needed to do something immediately.”

Student leaders from Memorial, Santa Fe and North high schools began texting each other about how they could help. Before long, they were developing plans for a relief effort.

Monday evening, students spread the word about the effort via electronic social networking. They gathered at Santa Fe to clean out the student government store, Richardson said. Similar activity was transpiring at the other high schools. Before long, residents were already dropping off items. First thing Tuesday morning, Santa Fe staff members joined in the effort. After students finished final exams, they came to the spot.

“This is what happened,” Richardson said as she stood in the school’s foyer near an ever-growing area of donated items. “It’s awesome.”

Assisting the students at Santa Fe were Karen Gray, freshman counselor, and James Keeton, career counselor. Gray said she came to the Santa Fe foyer at about 7:15 a.m. Tuesday and the student council store was filled to capacity. Gray and Keeton felt a desire to help the students.

“This is what it’s all about,” Gray said. “These kids have the heart and the soul to want to help. Our kids have the spirit of giving.”

On May 3, 1999, Gray was principal of an elementary school in Noble near the path of the tornado. Some of her teachers live in the hard hit communities of Bridge Creek and Moore. It was two days before she knew they were alive.

“As an administrator that’s horrifying,” Gray said. “You’ve just got this sense that you’ve got to protect your people. My heart’s going out to the parents and administrators in Moore.”

The high school relief effort is a way to help others, Gray said.

Keeton said first thing Tuesday morning there was a need to start organizing and managing the relief effort. He said he was amazed by how many items were already there.

“After that initial surge I didn’t realize that the community was going to respond so strongly,” Keeton said. “It’s been a constant stream of donations.”

Keeton said Edmond Public Schools does a lot to encourage community service, but this effort speaks about the compassion of the students.

Monday afternoon, when school staff were making sure students were safe, Keeton was wondering how his 5-year-old son was going to be. After getting him home, seeing the devastation and knowing what the families of victims, especially of the trapped students, were going through was heart breaking.

“That could easily be his school,” Keeton said.

Amidst taking final exams the Edmond students still wanted to help others, Keeton said.

Students at all three high schools — all secondary — and volunteers at many elementary schools were also collecting items. Items being collected include bottled water, energy drinks, pre-packaged snacks, work gloves, work gloves, sunscreen and hand sanitizer.

The effort will continue through mid-afternoon Wednesday, the last day of school for Edmond Public Schools. John Ross Elementary students were writing letters to emergency workers.