Maryland public schools have raised more than $1.3 million for the victims of Hurricane Katrina as part of the first statewide fundraising drive ever, education officials announced yesterday.
The drive, dubbed the Maryland Kids Care Campaign, marked the largest response to a national disaster by the school system in recent memory, state schools spokesman William Reinhard said. Montgomery County led Katrina donations with $257,000. Prince George's County students gave almost $113,000, according to data from the state Department of Education.
"This is something that touched all the kids personally," Reinhard said. "Nobody can remember anything quite like this."
A spokesman for the Virginia Education Department said it has not tallied the amount of money raised in each school system. But anecdotes and data from some counties suggest that students there did not hesitate to empty their piggy banks. Arlington's school system tallied more than $13,000, plus supplies and goods.
"Certainly our students have been very busy," state schools spokesman Charlie Pyle said. "So many students have involved themselves in fundraisers."
Schools across the region held concerts and sold awareness bracelets to help raise money. They stuffed backpacks with supplies and packed health kits for survivors. They sold lemonade and wrote letters to children on the Gulf Coast.
In Falls Church, the school board donated trailers to the West Baton Rouge Parish school system to help it accommodate more than 500 displaced students. Children from Thomas Jefferson Elementary decorated boxes filled with hygiene products to go in the trailers. Each box also includes a note that reads, "A box of love from our hearts to yours."
Guidance counselor Jacqueline Torbit, who works at Bollman Bridge Elementary in Savage, said that the August disaster struck a chord with her students. Torbit helped organize the school's "dollar drive" after the hurricane with the goal of raising $1,000 -- about the same amount they donated after the tsunami devastated southeast Asia last year.
The students surpassed that goal, raising $2,208. Fifth-graders spent math classes counting coins. Maryland School Superintendent Nancy S. Grasmick visited Bollman Bridge yesterday to celebrate the students' achievement.
"I believe the kids were more affected by this because there were kids involved," Torbit said.
Students displaced by Katrina began enrolling in area schools just days after the hurricane. More than 830 landed in Maryland schools, state officials said. In Virginia, the number topped 1,000, Pyle said.
Bollman Bridge donated the money they raised to the American Red Cross. The response to Katrina has been the largest in the organization's history. So far, it has raised about $1.2 billion but expects spending to exceed $2 billion. By contrast, the Red Cross raised $556 million for the tsunami relief effort.
"Our kids are very caring children," said Bollman Bridge Principal Monterey Morell. "We just have to give them a theme and a cause."