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Evans Mills Primary raises money for tornado-destroyed school

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EVANS MILLS — As is true of many causes, it started with one person.

An Evans Mills second-grader sparked the idea of helping a school torn to pieces by a tornado in the Midwest, and the primary school rallied behind her to raise money and spirits through box tops, brownies and donated nonperishable food items.

The school will be mailing about $1,000 and boxes of canned goods to Plaza Towers Elementary School, one of two schools in Moore, Okla., destroyed May 20 by a devastating tornado.

“I wanted to help the kids,” said 7-year-old Sarah E. Ashley. “I wouldn’t like it if my school was broken down and no one helped me. I usually like helping people. I got that idea from the news.”

She sent Principal Pamela L. Knight a handwritten letter asking the school for help.

“When the Oklahoma tornado hit, Sarah was just beside herself,” Mrs. Knight said.

She said without Sarah’s idea, the school might have just put out a donation jar in the main office.

In addition to a canned food drive, the school organized bake sales on concert nights and raised $300. When the Parent-Teacher Organization counted the more than $3,000 raised through the Box Tops for Education program, PTO President Amber L. Ybarra decided to donate some of the proceeds to Sarah’s cause.

“The timing was just the way it was,” Mrs. Knight said. “It was Sarah’s spark.”

Some of the other money raised by the box tops went toward the school Flag Day festival, where students duct-taped Mrs. Knight to a wall, threatened a willing volunteer perched in a dunk tank and sidewalk-chalked flags on the ground.

“Some of the money goes into the festival so kids can see the benefit of their hard work,” Mrs. Ybarra said.

The classroom that raises the most box tops per quarter is treated to a pizza or ice cream party. If the school makes more than $3,000, it gets to duct-tape the principal to the wall.

“I wanted to do something where the kids get more motivated about collecting box tops,” Mrs. Ybarra said. “Every 10 cents adds up, and it’s money for our school.”

Now, it is also money for a school that has to be rebuilt.

Sarah came up to Mrs. Knight, who was dangling from purple, pink and orange duct tape, pleased with the money she and the school had raised.

“Mrs. Knight, are you going to stay there all night?” she asked.

Mrs. Knight nodded her head “yes” and twitched her nose — which had been itchy for at least 10 minutes.

“I was hoping we’d get a lot of money,” Sarah said with a smile.

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