Eight Bossier Parish schools collectively raised and donated more than $10,000 for relief efforts in tornado-ravaged Oklahoma.
A formal donation was made Wednesday to the American Red Cross and The Salvation Army to aid the two agencies in the ongoing efforts to rebuild the towns demolished by two massive EF5 tornados last month. The first donation of $7,600 was made to Reid Brau, Regional CEO of the North Louisiana Red Cross, in the form of cash, coins and a check. Schools who helped raise funds were Benton High, Bossier Elementary, Central Park Elementary, Elm Grove Elementary, Haughton Middle, R.V. Kerr Elementary, T.L. Rodes Elementary and W.T. Lewis Elementary.
The reality of such a horrific tragedy hit close to home with Lydia Cranford, a third grade teacher at Central Park Elementary School. Seven of the children killed at Plaza Towers Elementary School, which took a direct hit from an EF-5 tornado on May 20, were third graders.
Cranford, who held back tears, said it was an eye opening experience and one that she talked with her students about openly. A second round of deadly tornados hit just 11 days later, a storm system that tracked through the rural area of El Reno, Okla. exactly one week ago and has since been identified as the widest tornado in American history, measuring 2.6 miles across at its widest point and surpassing the previous record set in 2004 by a Nebraska storm.
Cranford said there are life lessons that come from tragedies like this.
“It’s not just about textbook learning for us. Our school motto refers to empowering the whole child – mind, body and soul,” she explained. “We hope the students and teachers affected by this storm see that our community cares about them.”
Central Park collected $350 for Oklahoma, most of which came from a $1 casual dress day and the rest coming from the kindness of their hearts.
“Some of my students chose to donate their snack money instead of using it for themselves,” Cranford said. “I couldn’t be any more proud of our school and our students.”
Haughton Middle School raised $5,000 during the last three days of school. They decided to split their money in order to make a second donation to the Salvation Army of Shreveport-Bossier.
Principal Waylon Bates said his entire school – administration, faculty, staff and students – stepped up to the plate and opened their hearts, emptied their pockets and immersed themselves into helping their neighbors in the north.
“It all came together very quick,” Bates said. “The people of Haughton are very, very giving.”
Haughton Middle School organized three days of activities, including a basketball and volleyball game as well as a friendly karaoke challenge, to boost their fundraising total.
Major Kari Booth, Assistant Corp Officer with the Salvation Army, said the donation from Haughton Middle School will go a long way in recovery efforts.
Booth, a native of Oklahoma City, said the Salvation Army is using financial donations to purchase gift cards that can be spent on lodging, medication, food and the basic necessities to get Oklahomans back on their feet.
“Oklahomans are very giving and willing to help out when it comes to events like this,” Booth said. “It will mean a lot to the people in the hardest hit areas to see this kind of support.”
Bates said his goal was not just to give the students a fun day, but to show how living with a ‘pay it forward’ attitude can benefit those who need it most. With their help, the residents of Oklahoma will continue to have the food, shelter and emotional support needed to rebuild their lives.
The American Red Cross website reports that they have served more than 287,000 meals and snacks, distributed more than 68,000 relief items (cleaning supplies, flashlights, batteries, etc.) and provided more than 13,600 health services and mental health contacts.