By Kevin Haas
Rock River Current
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ROCKFORD — A small group of second graders at Prairie Hill Elementary School raised hundreds of dollars for children in Ukraine while inspiring their peers to be kind and help others.
The students raised $2,831.96 through a weeklong bake sale last week, and they’re working with their parents to get the money to an organization that supports orphans in Ukraine.
“We felt sad for the people who had to lose their parents,” said Ireland English, one of the students who organized the sale. “We want to send them happy thoughts to make them feel a lot better than they do.”
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The students initiated the fundraiser on their own, coming up with the idea after seeing reports on the war and various relief efforts on the news.
“We know how hard it is there and how hard this war has been, and we want to send them support and donations,” Olivia Misiaszek said.
Many young students have plans to do good deeds, Principal Kevin Finnegan said, but it was the follow through and initiative of this group that stood out.
“They drove this. They did everything,” he said. “I sent the communication out to the community that was on an email they crafted, they put up the posters, they set up the times.”
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The kids also organized volunteers and blocked off times for the sale to be held shortly after school let out.
“They had the germination of this idea and then created an event around it,” the principal said. “The compassion, unbelievable, but also to see the follow-through.”
The group — Katie Clow, Olivia Misiaszek, Avery Recob, Ireland English, Grace Radean, Eleni Fuchs and Chase Carley — are all in Jacki Davenport’s second-grade class. The spoke with the Rock River Current on Monday in what many said was their first-ever interview.
“(Ukrainian kids’ lives are a lot harder than ours, even if we like have to do 10 chores every day, their lives are still a lot harder,” Avery Recob said.
“There life can always be in danger in the war,” Chase Carley said. “The civilians of Russia don’t want the war to be happening, the only person who wants to start the war is Vladimir Putin, the president of Russia.”
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The group’s effort spread around the building as other students were inspired by what they saw, Finnegan said.
“Over the week it just sort of grew and grew and grew,” he said. “It sort of spread within the building so that some of the older kids were really impressed and wanted to know what they could do and really wanted to see it go even bigger.”
The second-grade group also noticed their classmates energized by the effort.
“I feel like we’ve inspired a lot because now other kids are talking about doing this next year again,” Katie Clow said. “There’s another message in it, too. Be kind and help others.”
The last day of the fundraiser got a boost by some hot weather and timely snow cone sales.
“The line that we had for snow cones was all the way around past the trash can,” Eleni Fuchs said.
The sale had raised a little over $1,200 in the first four days, and then an additional $1,600 poured in on the final day on Friday.
“I didn’t know we would pull that off,” Grace Radean said. “I felt so good inside to help the Ukrainians.”