The earthquake that rocked Haiti on Jan. 12 sent emotional shockwaves around the world and into a living room on Spokane’s South Hill. When 7-year-old Ella Magnuson watched the news with her dad and saw the devastation she said, “I got sad. I started thinking maybe they might need water or food.”
Meanwhile her brother Mack, 11, did his own research at school. “I found out pretty much everybody was homeless, even the president,” he said. “I saw pictures of people, like, stuck in buildings with their hands extended.” He too wanted to help.
And their sister Sunny, 5, felt a personal connection to the disaster. She said, “My friend Emma – her cousin is from Haiti. He was adopted out from there, but he went back to visit and help out in the orphanage.”
Her eyes grew big as she talked about the anxious days of not knowing if her friend’s cousin had survived the quake. “I was worried,” she said. “He always walks by our house with his backpack, every day.”
So, the Magnuson kids channeled their concern into action. Ella decorated a cardboard box with red crosses and hearts and carefully printed “Please give to the Red Cross” and “Help the people of Haiti!” on top.
She asked her mother, Katie Magnuson, if she and Sunny could go door-to-door in their neighborhood and collect money to help the Haitian people. Her mom agreed, and then Ella called her cousins, Hanna Fahsholtz, 12, and Cameron Fahsholtz, 10, and told them about her plan. The four girls put the box in a red wagon and set off.
Mack was determined not to be left out. He was working with his dad at the family’s restaurant, Hogan’s, that day, but he found a pickle jar and took it to work with him to collect donations from diners. Over two weekends, the children collected $575 for the Red Cross.
But the Magnuson kids weren’t the only children in the Spokane area who were moved by the tragedy. In schools across the area, children organized fundraisers to help in the relief efforts.
At Whitman Elementary on the North Side, first-grader Jeremiah Carr came up with the idea to make and sell Valentines, and the school launched a “Hearts for Haiti” fundraiser. Adams Elementary students on the South Hill held a stuffed animal and coin drive and dubbed the program, “Helping Haiti in a Hurry.” In one week the school gathered 1,200 stuffed animals and raised $922. The toys were sent to a charity that cleans them and then ships them to orphanages in Haiti.
Principal Mary Weber is proud of her students, “Sixty-percent of our kids live in poverty,” she said. “But they brought in their toys – things that are precious to them.”
And at Linwood Elementary on the North Side, students brought in coins by the bagful. Mary Margaret Wagner coordinated the efforts. She said, “One little boy brought in a sack of change that came to $42!” The students raised $1,309.21.
Those are just a few of the many area Haiti fundraisers.
The generosity of area children has been an encouragement to the Inland Northwest chapter of the American Red Cross. “We’ve been really impressed by the number of kids who are motivated by what they saw in the news,” said Megan Snow, director of communications. “They’ve been impacted by seeing the kids in Haiti.”
Snow said children have dropped off jars of coins at their office. “It’s so inspiring,” she said. Locally, the Red Cross has raised more than $150,000 for the Haiti relief efforts. “That money goes to buy tents, food and water – basic necessities,” Snow said.
The Magnuson kids are proud that their neighborhood collection effort will help those devastated by the earthquake. “It makes me feel good inside to be helping other people,” said Ella.
Mack nodded and said, “It makes me feel pretty happy that we’re going to make a difference.”