A 9-year-old girl in Perry made a special request for her birthday this year, and it wasn't a pony or a new toy. Asking instead that her friends and family donate money to help hurricane victims on the East Coast, she raised hundreds of dollars for the Red Cross.
Weeks after Hurricane Sandy killed more than 100 people and displaced thousands in New York and New Jersey, many remain without their homes and are struggling through the winter. Jaedin Turner hasn't forgotten them, and she used her Dec. 2 birthday party as an occasion to raise around $500 for Red Cross relief efforts on the East Coast. She then sought matching funds from area business, and will have raised about $1,000 by the end of the year.
When Jaedin saw news footage of the hurricane's devastation of New York, it hit home for her, she said. She'd visited New York City with her mother two years ago, and recognized some of the flooded areas. When her birthday approached and the subject of gifts came up, she decided to do something about it.
"I felt bad that everyone lost pretty much everything," she said. "And I felt like I had enough."
When Jaedin and her mother, Brandi Turner, approached area businesses to match Jaedin's donation to the Red Cross, they found willing partners in Topeka, at Hill's Pet Nutrition and Binswanger Glass, and in Perry at Hamm, a construction and contracting company, as well as Perry's First State Bank and Trust.
The money will go toward maintaining shelters for displaced people in New York, said Jo Ann Long, regional development director for the Red Cross in Kansas. It will also help provide food, cleanup kits, and programs to help people get back on their feet.
Long said it wasn't uncommon anymore to find people as young as Jaedin getting involved in relief efforts.
"We are finding more and more that our youth are aware of what's happening out there," she said. "They want to give back."
The local Red Cross chapter is still sending volunteers to the East Coast and collecting donations, and will continue until at least the end of the year. Long said Kansas residents can help by texting "Red Cross" to 90999 to make a $10 donation, or by taking the next opportunity to participate in a blood drive. Donations also can be dropped off or sent to the Douglas County Red Cross chapter, 2518 Ridge Court, No. 205, Lawrence 66046.
More than 300 blood drives on the East Coast were canceled by the hurricane, Long said, leaving the nation's hospitals shorter in supply than usual.
To learn more about Red Cross hurricane relief efforts, visit www.redcross.org.