Heroes for Haiti
As I sat down to write this story, I turned on the news and was shocked to hear that Haiti had been hit by a devastating earthquake. I hope others are as generous as the school children I met today and open their hearts to help the citizens of one of the poorest countries as they begin the long recovery process.
While shoes will be needed down the road, the most critical need right now is financial. For more information, please contact one of the many relief organizations that FedEx is supporting:
- www.redcross.org or 1-800-REDCROSS (1-800-733-2767)
In all the years we’ve been using the FedEx Special Delivery Van to make deliveries, attend community events, provide inkind shipping, etc., I don’t think we have ever received such a warm welcome as we did on Jan. 12, at McMurray Elementary School in Peters Township, Pa.
On a frigid January day, 80 members of the school council greeted us with cheers as we arrived in the festive, heart-covered van. By their reaction, you would have thought we had a truck full of puppies or the latest Xbox games. Despite the name of our truck, we were not making a special delivery to these very excited students in their matching student council t-shirts. Nope. They were giving us something. Shoes. And plenty of them.
We were here to pick up nearly 900 pounds of shoes which the 1,000 children of McMurray Elementary collected for their counterparts in Haiti. A few months ago, the fourth, fifth and sixth graders standing before us probably couldn’t imagine going without shoes, but thanks to parents and educators, they’re learning how the simple gift of shoes can help those in Haiti, one of the poorest countries in the Western Hemisphere.
The shoe collection got off on the right foot (pun intended) with Mary Jane Bastyr, the mother of Ryan, a fifth grader at the school. As a nurse in the labor and delivery department at a local hospital, Mary Jane knows the importance of shoes, especially comfortable ones as she races around caring for expectant mothers and their newborns.
While cleaning out her closet, she questioned what to do with her gently used shoes, which were in excellent condition. Immediately, Mary Jane thought of two doctors she had worked with who provide medical services to the citizens of Haiti. Dr. Dayle Griffin, a pediatrician, and Dr. Dan Lattanzi, an obstetrician/gynecologist were going to start off the new year with a trip to Haiti and Mary Jane thought she could send her shoes with them.
“Dr. Lattanzi had a hospital built so the women in Haiti could have a clean place to give birth,” said Mary Jane. “Both doctors donate a tremendous amount of time to the people of Haiti.”
Aware that her son’s school was looking for a community service project, she approached the school’s principal with the idea of sending more than just her shoes to Haiti. The simple task of cleaning a closet quickly grew into a comprehensive campaign to help the people of Haiti, while teaching the children more about this impoverished country.
Working with teachers Cyndi Chipple and Heather Blose, who co-sponsor the student council at McMurray, the newly named project “Heroes for Haiti” took off. First, the students were educated on the country with a short video produced by a teacher. Then after producing advertising materials, they officially kicked off the shoe drive with the “Clean Your Closet” campaign on Dec. 11.
“Soon, students lined the halls with shoes they collected,” noted Cyndi. “We had a neighborhood meeting before the winter break where students matched shoes and wrote messages in English and French to the recipients.”
Mary Jane not only lent her brain power to this project, but some brawn as well. Along with friends and relatives, Mary Jane sorted the shoes according to what was appropriate for
Mixed in with the sandals and gym shoes were plenty of winter boots and other footwear more suitable for the chilly climates of Western Pennsylvania than the balmy temperatures of this
The project will not come to an end now that the packages are on their way to Haiti>.
“I hope to take my children there to do service projects when they are in high school and mature enough to understand a third world country,.” added Mary Jane. “In the meantime, the doctors plan to speak to the students after they return from their trip to Haiti.”
As the shivering children ran back indoors after moving the heavy boxes into the van, I realized why none of them had coats on. It was for us to see the message on the back of their matching t-shirts, a quote which truly reflected the spirit of these young heroes.
“If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.- John Quincy Adams