WASHINGTON – It’s not every day that a seventh-grader gets thanked by the president, but it’s not every day that a seventh-grader raises money to help people halfway around the world.
Kelsey O’Marra’s fund-raising work on behalf of survivors of a deadly raid on a school in Beslan, Russia, landed her in a White House ceremony Friday, where President Bush praised her for showing both “leadership” and “compassion.”
“What happened was really sad and depressing,” said the Bethesda 12-year-old. “It’s just unbelievable that it happened to them.”
The September raid, carried out by Chechen separatists, resulted in the deaths of nearly 350 adults and schoolchildren, and wounded hundreds more.
Kelsey, of the Connelly School of the Holy Child in Potomac, said she was spurred to act after seeing images on television of children running or being carried away from their school as the siege ended earlier this month.
Classmates supported her fund-raising efforts by paying $1 each as part of a “tag sale.” The contribution, Kelsey explained, allowed students to skip wearing their school-mandated uniform for a day.
Kelsey said she netted $202.70, which was turned over to a Russian Embassy fund for victims of the tragedy.
Beslan, in southwest Russia’s Caucasus region, is slowly recovering from the attack though wounds linger, according to the Red Cross.
“We’re planning to help roughly 2,000 people over the next 12 months,” said American Red Cross spokeswoman Jacki Flowers of plans to aid victims’ families and survivors.
The Geneva-based International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies launched a worldwide appeal for donations on behalf of both groups shortly after the siege started, Flowers said.
That appeal has so far brought in $680,000 in donations for aid to Russia, Bush said Friday. The president went on to implore more Americans to donate in the days ahead.
Kelsey agrees, hoping more people will give and that the money she raised is used wisely.
“I hope (the money) will go toward rebuilding the school or to the families so they have something for their kids,” she said.
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