WASHINGTON- Maryland children are opening their hearts and emptying their piggy banks for victims of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
Kid-driven fund-raising events, ranging from penny-collection drives to trick-or-treating for UNICEF, are expected to easily collect tens of thousands of dollars in Maryland alone to help victims of the attacks and to provide aid to Afghan children.
That desire to help others is “a very natural and positive way” for children to channel the nervous energy they are feeling about the attacks, said Susan Silk, a psychologist in Detroit. It’s also preferable to the alternative, she said, which could be for that energy to be channeled in negative ways, such as in bullies and gangs.
“Empowerment is an antidote to depression and cynicism,” Silk said.
At Brunswick Elementary School in Frederick County, students have empowered themselves by raising $1,401 in their Pennies for Patriotism Drive, which began Sept. 17 and the end of the month, said Susie Lucas, the school’s community liaison.
The students will donate money to the American Red Cross fund for victims and their families and rescue workers.
“We knew this is a very caring community, so people would give whatever they had,” Lucas said.
She has made so many trips to count change at the Coin Star machine at the local Super Fresh supermarket that the store has offered to match the amount the school collects.
In Rockville, students Zack Beauchamp, Conor Murphy and Woody Wiegmann modeled their own organization, Halloween for Heroes, after UNICEF’s program, in which trick-or-treaters ask for donations instead of candy.
The three students have organized their classmates and plan to donate any money collected to the Families of Freedom Scholarship Fund, chaired by former President Clinton and former Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole.
“We came up with the idea because we were thinking about all of the ways that we could help, and we knew a lot of other kids who wanted to help,” Wiegmann said. “In my school, there were a lot of kids who were really upset, we wanted to make them feel as if they made an impact.”
Students from Atholton High School in Columbia sent $1,100 and homemade sympathy cards to New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, said Michele McDonagh, a senior from Laurel.
At Perry Hall Elementary School in Baltimore County, fourth graders organized a skating party at a local roller rink, selling tickets for $5 and raising $2,300, said Assistant Principal Janice Hill. The school also raised $1,900 in a penny drive and sent the total $4,200 to the American Red Cross.
“They did a really good job to get such a terrific response,” Hill said.
The biggest children’s fund raiser is likely to be the annual UNICEF drive, which has designated all funds raised in the United States to Afghan children.
Gabrielle Jones, the national marketing manager for Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF, said there has already been a 12 percent increase over last year in the number of boxes ordered nationally for children use to collect donations.
“Since 1950, the program has raised $110 million nationally in pennies, nickels and dimes,” she said. “Children really learn and become empowered that they can make a difference with a little bit.”
Maryland children raised $83,080.82 last year for UNICEF, and this year, “we are hoping that they will exceed that number,” said Jones.
While such efforts can help children, Silk said it is also important for parents to make sure they take time to deal with their emotions.
“I think the only thing that might be a cautionary note is that it would be important for there to be an opportunity (for children) to step out of the limelight and process the feelings they may be having,” she said. “It’s very easy to get caught up in the enthusiasm and excitement of helping.”