TENANTS HARBOR—St. George School Second Grade Teacher Alison Babb had been working on a unit on the concept of “empathy” recently and a particular idea struck home with one student in her class, Liam Ward.
“Liam came into class recently and asked me, ‘Ms. Babb, can we do something to help Australia? It’s on fire,’ ” said Babb.
Reports have been published that Australia’s ongoing bushfires have killed a billion wildlife animals so far.
“I asked him to pitch the idea to our crew during morning time, and the support was overwhelming,” she said. “The room was buzzing. Students who hadn’t heard of the news from their parents asked what was going on and peers gently explained the situation. We then brainstormed many ways to help and decided to set aside some time this week to learn about what’s happening and create posters to educate and to create a donation station to collect money outside of our classroom. We also decided to hold a bake sale to raise money.”
Ms. Babb sent a flyer home to all families, and Liam’s mom posted the flyer on a Facebook fundraiser.
With a modest goal of $400 in mind, Liam’s mother, Summer Stuart Ward, wrote a post on Facebook: “Liam collected toys from his room that he wants to sell to raise money. I am beyond shocked at his determination to raise money for this. In tears and bursting with pride thinking about it. And now his sister wants to get the middle schoolers on board to help. Thank you all for helping him make this a reality. It is beyond what we expected.”
Within one week, that goal exploded, the fundraiser collecting nearly $4,000 in local donations, including a $1,000 check from Meklin & Sons Excavation.
On Monday, January 13, the anteroom outside Ms. Babb’s classroom had two tables filled with a variety of baked treats, which many of the students, their parents and staff made for the public bake sale.
Inside Ms. Babb’s classroom, it was Quiet Time. Liam was playing with his LEGOs. When asked what made him come up with the donation idea, he said: “They should have a little help from us. We [the U.S.] sent fire fighters over and money, but I thought we [our second grade class] should, too.”
Other students in Ms. Babb’s class have been moved by this turn of events and the entire class is enthusiastic about helping.
“Ms Babb showed us some pictures on the smart board of what was happening in Australia and I felt really scared,” said Skylar. “When kids can get through it and kids can be really good at it [fundraising] and they can build a lot of things over and over again.”
The bake sale was a success, raising $1,500 in a day, bringing the total donations to date to $6,575.
“The school and Liam’s mom and I are going to sit down and choose the charity that is specifically working on assisting the wildlife and the preserving the environment,” said Ms. Babb.
This unexpected outpouring of donations has shown the children that they can band together and organize more fundraisers for future causes.
“We raised 4,000 and our goal was only $400 and it makes us feel really good for Australia,” said Ben.
Back to empathy. Ms. Babb circled the students back to the original premise of what inspired this act of kindness.
“Empathy means when someone gets hurt, you should ask them ‘Are you OK?’” said Gracie.
“The collective goodness that has sprouted from one child’s question—and the power it demonstrates — is the definition of inspiration,” said Babb. “No matter how young you are, you can make a difference.”
For more information on how the money will be allocated or to donate, “like” the Facebook fundraiser.
Kay Stephens can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org