Following the tragedy of September 11, students, teachers, staff, and parents from the Robert Reid Laboratory School [Reid] joined with their fellow Americans in responding to the call for help. In an effort to raise money for the American Red Cross, students have been selling a truly timeless commodity, hugs. For as much as one dollar, or as little as one penny, students are selling their hugs to family members, friends and teachers, raising a remarkable average almost $100 per day.
Three EWU student teachers are behind the organization of this heartfelt endeavor. Struck by the horror of the terrorist attacks, Angie Valder, Ariane Steffan, and Nicole Haeberle, said they immediately knew they had to do something. That something is now in it’s second successful week, and at the end of each day every penny is counted into a hand labeled large envelope.
Valder recalls the early morning hours of that day as she joined fellow student teachers Steffan and Haeberle at staff meeting. “The radio was playing in the background as we were talking and we heard the announcer say that a plane had hit the twin towers. We heard the whole thing and we were all broken hearted, ” said Valder. By Thursday morning, a plan was in motion based on Valder’s mother’s idea to sell hugs, as well as taking pictures of hugs in the giving, to be sent along with a big card. Valder says the card will read something like “Here’s a big hug from Reid Elementary — our hearts are with you.”
The three EWU student teachers have gone through their entire education programs together from the beginning. Now, assigned together to Reid School for their teaching internships, they are finishing together. All three women are in their last quarter, preparing for certification, and looking eagerly ahead to professional placements in their own school. “We really want to say thanks to all who have participated,” said Haeberle. “If ever anyone needed a reason to keep hoping, just come and walk through the halls of Reid School. These kids have been so great.”
“Even the parents,” added Steffan, “one of our parents, Laurie Martin, made red, white and blue beaded tassels for the entire staff and each one of the students.” The Monday following the attacks, the school held an assembly. Teachers and parent volunteers gave demonstrations to help the students grasp the idea of what the dollars they raised would represent in relief aid. To demonstrate where the money would go, for example, they wrapped ten kids in ten blankets to represent $50.
Valder agreed. “The parents have been so generous, but what we’re really talking about here is kids bringing in their entire penny collection in a mayo jar.”
“Another first grader found a quarter and decided to donate it. For a first grader that is quite a find,” said Steffan. It was easy to see how these hugs have been good for everyone involved. It has also served as a way for the students to process what has happened and to see their part in it.
Joseph Mirich, Reid School principal, relates “if you had been here on the day of the tragedy, you wouldn’t have seen anything very out of place, we didn’t have people crying or hysteria, but we did have numbness on the part of the teachers. They were saying they couldn’t concentrate and they just didn’t know how to respond. This gave us something to do. I think it helped us all get through the trauma.” “
The original time frame for raising money was two weeks,” said Steffan, “but now we hope to continue this when school starts at Eastern, especially with the education majors.” “We challenge you the reader to participate,” added Haeberle.
“There are a lot of Eastern people through here in a day,” said Mirich. “If each one just put in a quarter, it would really add up.” Every penny counts is the bottom line of this fundraiser. “I think they [the victims] would accept anything. I think they would accept just the fact that people out here are thinking of them,” Mirich said.
“We’ve made $433. 81 already in five days, and the proceeds all go directly to the American Red Cross to help the victims of the tragedy,” said Valder. “Anyone who wants to help can just walk over to Reid school and put a donation in the big jar on the table as you come in the front doors.” Any club or department on campus that would like to sponsor a donation jar on behalf of the Reid students can contact the school at 559-4150, and leave a message for one of the student teachers, Angie Valder, Ariane Steffan, or Nicole Haeberle. “It feels good to help,” Haeberle said.
Mirich reflected that it is a tragedy when even one life is lost, “but this has also been wonderful in that we are thinking more, and showing how much we can care, ” he said.