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Governor Lauds Kids With Cause

Students Helped Tsunami Relief

By Ylan Q. Mui
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, March 24, 2005; Page HO06

Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R) visited Talbott Springs Elementary School in Columbia this week to recognize the students' contributions to tsunami relief, part of a widespread effort by Howard schoolchildren to aid survivors of the Dec. 26 disaster.

Talbott Springs students donated their snack money and broke into their piggy banks over two weeks in January to raise about $1,000 for UNICEF. They also collected about 210 pounds of toiletries to send overseas, including combs, deodorant, shampoo, conditioner and soap.

Above, Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R) congratulates Talbott Springs Elementary School students on their campaigns to raise money and collect supplies for tsunami victims. Below, students greet the governor with signs as he arrives. (Photos James M. Thresher -- The Washington Post)

Ehrlich praised the students' altruism during his visit Tuesday. State Schools Superintendent Nancy S. Grasmick, who also attended, said she would make a personal donation of about $500 to the school in honor of its efforts. Howard County Superintendent Sydney L. Cousin and several school and elected officials attended the ceremony as well.

In total, Howard schools have raised more than $100,000 for a variety of tsunami relief efforts, school officials said. At Folly Quarter Middle School in Ellicott City, for example, students raised $2,700 in about a week through a penny drive and spirit day.

Northfield Elementary School in Ellicott City raised $15,800 for the Red Cross -- one of the largest amounts in the county -- through a "math-a-thon" in January. Though students have received prizes in past years for their fundraising, Northfield Principal Steve Meconi said that all money raised this year went to the tsunami victims.

"What we wanted to do was teach the children that at times we give for the purpose of giving," he said.

The Northfield fundraiser was the idea of 9-year-old Lavanya Garnepudi, who helped coordinate the math-a-thon along with her teachers and school officials. She and her friends reminded their classmates to collect their pledges each day during morning announcements.

"Once you think about it, the people that got hit by the tsunami might not have much stuff left," said Sam Worchesky, 9, who helped organize the event. "We want to try to help them out."

Sam got 98 out of his 100 math problems correct and raised about $65 through pledges from his parents, his cousin, his aunt, his uncle and his grandmother. And $7 of the money came from his own savings.

Gabriel Fernandez, 9, donated $5 from his allowance. He remembered waking up at night and hearing his parents shouting when television news reported how a massive underground earthquake set off huge tidal waves in the southern Pacific. Gabriel stayed up late to watch the reports with his parents. When he heard about his friend Lavanya's efforts, he wanted to help.

Northfield teacher Karen Geissler, who helped coordinate the school's efforts, said that she hoped that responding to the disaster was a learning experience for the children.

"They learned compassion for others and the responsibility that we all have to take care of our neighbors," she said. "They would hope that other people would do the same."

© 2005 The Washington Post Company