When they heard about the hardships and devastation caused by Hurricane Harvey, students across the Cherry Creek School District wanted to do something to help.
At Cherokee Trail High School, the Red Cross Youth Club, the Drama Club and Student Leadership joined forces and launched “Hearts 4 Houston.” Students emptied their pockets, their backpacks and piggy banks, searched for loose change in their cars and participated in a “Miracle Minute” during their home football game on Sept. 7. In just three days, Cougar Nation came together and raised more than $3,500, which was donated to the American Red Cross earmarked for Hurricane Harvey relief efforts.
At Timberline Elementary, Leslie Navarro-Walker, director of the school’s Before & After Care program, knew of a perfect project for a group of caring elementary school students. Navarro-Walker’s daughter, who attends Texas Christian University in Fort Worth, told her mother that patients from pediatric hospitals in Houston and Corpus Christi were being evacuated to Cook Children’s Medical Center in Fort Worth. Not only were those children dealing with serious illnesses or injuries, many were also facing the loss of their families’ homes or belongings because of Hurricane Harvey.
Navarro-Walker learned that Cook Children’s Medical Center has a “Bear Den” where teddy bears and other stuffed animals are collected, disinfected, blessed by local clergy, then passed out to Cook patients. The supply of stuffed animals was low in September and Navarro-Walker saw a golden opportunity.
“I wanted kids here to know about other people in other states and that they could help, even though they were miles away,” Navarro-Walker explained.
So Navarro-Walker enlisted Timberline’s Student Council to lead a one-week campaign to collect new, stuffed animals.
“Our Student Council members came up with a script and they went to each classroom and explained what we were doing and why,” Navarro-Walker said.
The presentations prompted questions about what was happening in Houston and other areas affected by Hurricane Harvey. That led to a unique and authentic learning opportunity as students researched hurricanes and studied maps to see where Fort Worth, Houston and Corpus Christi are located in relation to Aurora, Colorado.
In just a week, Timberline students collected 177 new, stuffed animals; cuddly teddy bears and panda bears, fuzzy dogs and cats, a couple of pink pigs and many more furry friends. Navarro-Walker’s family delivered them to Cook Children’s Medical Center during their trip to TCU’s Family Weekend. Navarro-Walker said even though they didn’t get to meet many patients in person, they did talk with a surgeon who wanted the Timberline students to know how powerful their project was.
“He said “I don’t think you realize how important this is to the kids, to know that other kids care,”” Navarro-Walker recalled. She says that’s what she wants Timberline students to remember. “Having kids care about kids and knowing that you can make a difference, no matter how far away you are.”
In fact, after Timberline’s first delivery to the Cook Children’s Medical Center, another 102 stuffed animals were donated. Those stuffed animals are being shipped to Fort Worth this week.
Thank you to the students, staff, parents and community members of Timberline Elementary, Cherokee Trail High School and other Cherry Creek schools who are helping us fulfill our mission “To inspire every student to think, to learn, to achieve, to care.”