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Waltham Elementary fifth-grader Nicole Pocivasek (far left) and seventh-grader Jalen Depenbrock (far right) got to throw pies in the faces of P.E. teacher Erin Duffy (center left) and Principal Kristi Eager (center right) on Friday as part of a fundraiser for tornado disaster relief. Remembering how the Utica tornado damaged their school building in 2004, the students raised $848.30 for the Red Cross’ relief for victims of the Nov. 17 tornado that damaged several Illinois towns.
Illinois Valley chapter American Red Cross manager Sarah Stasik was surprised late Friday afternoon when Waltham Elementary fifth-grade teacher Annie Baumgarten walked into Stasik’s Peru office with a check for $848.30.
The Waltham students had collected money — mostly loose change and singles — for the Red Cross’ tornado disaster relief.
“It gave me goose bumps,” Stasik said. “The eighth-graders were in kindergarten when the tornado hit Utica, so those kids know how it feels.”
The tornados that ripped through several Illinois towns on Nov. 17 called to mind the tornado that struck Utica in 2004. That tornado damaged the school district’s south building, Baumgarten said, but the community rallied around the school.
“The day after the tornado … we said, ‘Let’s do something to help,’ because our school was helped, so we wanted to pay it forward,” Baumgarten said.
Along with P.E. teacher Erin Duffy, Baumgarten organized a collection among the students. Each homeroom competed to see which grade could donate the most change in plastic milk jugs, with the winning grade treated by Duffy to an ice cream party. Also, each teacher had a cup with his or her name on it, and the teachers with the most money in their cups would take a pie to the face.
“This community remembers going through this in 2004,” Duffy said. “The entire community is so wonderful about getting behind things like this.”
Stasik said she was amazed at the amount of money collected from a district with around 200 students.
“That’s a pretty big outpouring from two schools,” she said.
But Duffy recognized the generosity of the district’s residents.
“The credit goes to the community,” Duffy said. “We work in a district that teaches its children to pay it forward when things like this happen.”
Rachel Stella can be reached at (815) 220-6933 or email@example.com.
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