James Templeton student coordinates fundraiser for Puerto Rican hurricane relief
Having spent two weeks with her grandparents in Puerto Rico last summer, Emily Spector-Van Zee said she was devastated to learn about the destruction caused by Hurricane Maria last September.
So the fifth-grader from Tigard's James Templeton Elementary School decided to do something about it.
"I was really upset so me and my mom started talking and we decided on a fundraiser," Emily said.
The next step was approaching Principal Carrie Ferguson who gladly agreed and a fundraiser to help out is set for this Saturday, March 17, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., at the school, 9500 S.W. Murdock St.
Authentic Puerto Rican food and a live band are among the highlights of the event.
All monies collected going to the Ricky Martin Foundation to help those affected by the storm, which took 64 lives on the island.
Emily, 11, said she was in Puerto Rico last summer to attend the wedding of her grandparents' good friend, Javier, who lives in the United States.
"It was amazing," Emily said of her trip. "The people treated me like they had known me their whole life. They treated me like a daughter."
While on the Caribbean island, Emily befriended Diego, a 10-year-old student who sought shelter in the lower level of his apartment complex during the storm. She still keeps in frequent contact with him.
Among the fundraising items for sale will be colorful Puerto Rico T-shirts. Designed by students at Tigard High School's leadership class in coordination with Templeton Elementary School teacher Deeann Albaugh.
"Diego came up with the design on the shirt and I came up with the hashtag (#Letshelppuertorico)," said Emily.
The shirts will sell for $10 each.
Trying to educate students, Emily and a small committee created three factual posters about the destruction left in the wake of Hurricane Maria, which caused $95 billion in damages.
Principal Ferguson said she is looking forward to Saturday's event.
"We are excited and feel privileged to support our friends in Puerto Rico who are struggling through this difficult time," she wrote in a news release. "We are so proud to have students like Emily who have big hearts of compassion and the willingness to take action where they see a need,"
Saturday's event will also include a letter writing station to two Puerto Rican schools in Puerto Rico: St. Mary's School and the Caribbean Bilingual Christian School.
"Best case scenario, we'll end up having pen pals," Emily said.
The organizers also are trying to hook up a Skype link to actually talk with Puerto Rican residents during Saturday's fundraiser.
Meanwhile, Saturday's event will include not only music from the Milwaukie-based Hill Road band but also authentic Puerto Rican food served by El Coqui, a popular Portland food truck run by Anthony Banegas, who actually lived in Puerto Rico for 20 years.