Children reach out |

Children reach out

Steamboat students want to send a message of peace to Afghanistan

Danie Harrelson

— Theo Dexter has received his share of unusual orders.

The owner of Lone Oak Studios said he doesn’t mind going to great lengths to make signs for his customers.

A recent inquiry, however, was in a class all by itself.

Judy Schwall, a counselor at Strawberry Park and Soda Creek elementary schools, asked Dexter about the possibility of students getting some of the leftover material used to make banners.

The students wanted to write messages of peace and hope on the scraps and give them to children in Afghanistan.

But their method of getting the messages to the right people posed a problem.

They wanted to attach their messages to packages of food dropped by U.S. airplanes over Afghanistan.

Schwall was concerned their words and pictures would rub off on such a rough trip, so Dexter agreed to test the durability of several pens and markers on the reinforced vinyl material.

“We get a lot of strange requests,” Dexter said. “This one was definitely different, but it made a lot of sense. It’s kids communicating with other kids a world away.”

He took advantage of the snowfall to experiment with the waterproof fabric. After writing on the scraps with permanent markers, he stuck them in a snow bank all day.

“They seemed to hold up well,” he said.

Many elementary students are aware that President George W. Bush on Thursday encouraged all children in the United States to each give one dollar to help the children of Afghanistan, Schwall said.

The students at Strawberry Park were already a step ahead before the president made his announcement, she said.

The newly elected student council earlier decided to donate all the proceeds from its annual fund-raiser to helping Afghan children.

“We’re not going to ask individual kids to bring a dollar, although they are more than welcome to do so,” Schwall said. “These kids want to do more than send money; they thought it was more important this time to send a message to other kids.”

Strawberry Creek and Soda Creek elementary schools recently raised $5,874.75 and $5,826.61, respectively, for the New York Firemen’s Widows and Orphans Fund.

Fifth-grader Sam Andrew, vice president of the student council, said he and his classmates are worried that people their age must live and play in such a dangerous and impoverished part of the world.

“They need peace in their lives,” he said. “We want to tell them to be strong, that it will get better.”

Elise Anderson, also a fifth grader and council’s treasurer, said she couldn’t understand why children who are no different than her should not have the chance to live in a peaceful world.

“All I can tell them is that I’m sorry,” Anderson said. ” I don’t know what else to say.”

Schwall said Andrew, Anderson and the rest of student council are busy looking for ways to contact the powers-that-be who might help make their idea a reality.

“Our biggest challenge is, ‘How do we get connected with people who drop off the food’ and ‘How do we communicate with them?'” she said. “It seems like this huge endeavor, but we’ve got to find a way.”

Schwall said students are interested in getting the attention of someone like First Lady Laura Bush, who just kicked off a national effort to end prejudice among America’s smallest citizens.

Fifth-grader Eddy Walsh, a class representative on the student council, said he agreed with Mrs. Bush.

“Just because some of their people are terrorists doesn’t mean that they should be treated bad,” Walsh said. “We should still do stuff for them because we just want the people who did it not them.”

If the students found a way to aerially ship the messages, Dexter said he would ask his supplier for extra pieces of the waterproof material.

The material will be cut into 12-by-12-inch pieces for each student to contribute individual messages.

Schwall said the student council is trying to come up with a few pictures that convey friendship and understanding.

Popular ideas include children holding hands and encircling the world or two hearts reaching out to each other.

Schwall said students might even try to bridge the language barrier by finding out how to translate simple messages into the language of the Afghanistan children.

“The ripple effect of what could happen if every kid in America took up this idea would be incredible,” she said.

And it will be begin with students like Kacey Bull, a fifth-grader who is also a class representative.

Bull knows about differences. She and her family just moved to Steamboat Springs from Washington.

But she also knows that similarities are more important than differences.

“They need to know that they are just like us, and that we are not trying to hurt them just because we are bombing their country,” Bull said.

“I wish they could know

about peace.”

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