When Amy Haenick and Elyse Cohen decided that they wanted to help families still reeling from the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, the two Burton Elementary School parents knew that it needed to be about something bigger than money.
“We wanted to do something more than just write a check to support the hurricane victims,” Cohen explained. “We wanted to teach our children about the importance of giving back and having compassion for others and knowing that one person really can make a difference in the world.”
Haenick and Cohen soon came up with the idea of creating and selling bracelets, then donating 100 percent of the profits to people on the East Coast who were devastated by Hurricane Sandy after it struck land Oct. 29. They contacted The Print House in Farmington Hills, whose owner, Bubba Urdan, generously provided 1,000 red silicone bracelets to the cause. They also reached out to the organization K.I.D.S. (Kids in Distressed Situations), which uses each cash donation it receives to provide 10 times that amount in new supplies and merchandise for families in need.
On Nov. 12, the Burton parents began selling their bracelets at school for $2 apiece and were amazed by the response from the community. Within the first three days, they had already raised over $2,200, which would translate to $22,000 worth of supplies donated by K.I.D.S.
“We were just shocked by people’s generosity and compassion toward these people and this cause,” Haenick said. “Some of the kids were buying three, five or 10 bracelets each, while others were donating additional money. We’ve been pretty overwhelmed to see how successful this project has been in such a short time.”
Haenick and Cohen also credited their Burton student liaison, fourth-grader Henry Ghawi, for helping them get the word out at school and inspiring other students to get involved.
“I’ve always wanted to go to the East Coast,” Ghawi said, “so I thought it would be good to help out some of the people who live there. They were in a really dangerous situation, and they’re still having a really hard time.”
Ghawi, Haenick and Cohen visited every Burton classroom to explain to students the importance of supporting the victims of Hurricane Sandy.
“I really think Henry helped motivate his fellow classmates,” Cohen said. “We really wanted them to consider all the kids who are struggling over there. We asked them to think about some of their favorite things and what it would be like if they suddenly didn’t have them anymore.”
Ghawi was so determined to help that he also gave his own PowerPoint presentation to Burton principal Maribeth Krehbiel about another fundraising idea: Slippers for Sandy. Under Ghawi’s program, Burton students would donate $1 to hurricane victims in exchange for the right to wear their pajamas and slippers to school for the day.
Krehbiel said that Burton may attempt to implement Slippers for Sandy at a later date. Until then, she feels tremendously proud of the generosity that has been displayed by Burton families.
“We have such a civic-minded community, and our students are always looking for ways to help others,” she said. “They know that there are lots of other kids out there who are not as lucky as them right now. I think this bracelet program is a terrific way for us to support people who are in distress.”
Haenick and Cohen pointed out that the bracelet project continues to expand with each passing day. According to Cohen, K.I.D.S. representatives have already asked The Print House to donate 1,000 more bracelets to be sold to people in New York and New Jersey.
“It’s been great to see how excited people are to get involved with the relief effort,” she said. “We would like this message to inspire other kids and other schools to get involved, too.”
Given the level of damage sustained on the East Coast and the number of families still trying to put their lives back together, the need for aid is surely not going away anytime soon. Haenick and Cohen hope that Burton students and parents will continue wearing their red bracelets as a symbol of solidarity with all those affected by Hurricane Sandy.
“We really want to instill our kids with the importance of giving to others, because there may come a time when they are the ones in need,” Haenick said. “We would like to keep this program going and growing for as long as we can, at least through the holiday season.”
To purchase a bracelet or make a donation, contact Amy Haenick at firstname.lastname@example.org or Elyse Cohen at email@example.com.