03-31-14: Students send messages of hope to school near deadly landslide
03-31-14: Students send messages of hope to school near deadly landslide
Posted on 03/31/2014

Their messages are simple and heartfelt.


Third grader Daniel Henderson wrote the word “Peace” inside a large orange circle he colored with yellow rays extending outward to resemble the sun.


Classmate Jamie Witwer used different colored markers to write each letter of the word “Hope,” while Tatiana Scheidt spelled out “CARE” in big bubble letters.


Hearts, flowers, happy faces, and rainbows also filled the notecards created by nearly 500 students in preschool through grade six at Wildwood Elementary School.


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The messages of hope are being mailed to students and staff at Darrington Elementary School that they have never met, yet feel a strong connection to, in the wake of the March 22 deadline landslide in Oso, Wash.


“This is so important to me, because a lot of people got hurt or died in the landslide,” Witwer said. “I think this will make them feel better.”


Student Council Adviser Vicki Egeland, whose friend is the librarian at Darrington Elementary School, coordinated the schoolwide response as a means of spreading hope from one elementary school to another.


Egeland spoke to her friend on March 27 and learned that the Darrington campus, which houses the elementary, middle, and high school, lost a custodian and two students in the massive mudslide in Snohomish County.


The Student Council adviser followed that conversation with an email to all Wildwood Elementary School staff asking them to have students draw pictures and write notes for Darrington Elementary students and staff.


Egeland wrote in part, “Wildwood has a long and proud tradition of reaching out to those affected by tragedy…from Sandy Hook Elementary to Hurricanes Sandy and Katrina…to the Tsunami in Indonesia and the Haitian earthquake, to the shooting of Christina Green — the elementary student in Arizona who was shot and killed during the assassination attempt on Congresswoman Gabby Gifford.”


She went on to tell her colleagues that the Darrington librarian “was filled with raw emotion as she described what that community is going through. They have been greatly comforted by the outpouring of support from around the country. She said our cards and pictures would be welcomed and appreciated.”


The next morning, Egeland paused to read some of the first cards made in morning kindergarten classes.


“As educators, we focus on academics,” Egeland said. “That is our job. But when we have an opportunity to also teach empathy and compassion, it makes such an impact on our school.”


The card-making activity helps students to remember that there is a world beyond Puyallup, she said.



“I tell kids even though you are small, you make a very big difference.”


This isn’t the first time that Egeland has worked with the Student Council to coordinate a schoolwide response to a tragedy, both nationally and internationally.

Last year, the entire school sent thank you cards to police officers and firefighters in Newtown, Connecticut who were among the first to respond to the deadly shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

Wildwood Elementary students also sent cards and letters to police officers, firefighters, and other emergency personnel after the World Trade Center attack in 2001, as well as cards to students in the South affected by Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

After the Haiti earthquake in 2010, students packaged health kits with basic necessities such as toothbrushes. They also raised more than $1,000 for an orphanage in Southeast Asia after the 2004 tsunami that devastated the region.

In all activities, teachers encourage students to focus on the positive in their cards or letters.


“We want to give them some hope,” third-grade teacher Julie Schlumpf told her students as they began making their cards for Darrington Elementary.


One by one, Schlumpf called students to the front of the room to share their messages. In addition to reading them aloud, students magnified their images with a projector for the entire class to see.


Principal Almai Malit-Idler said the simple gesture of handmade cards will hopefully go far to helping those who lives just hours away from Puyallup.


“This isn’t something monetary or about hours of community service, but it is an act of kindness,” she said. “The beauty of this simple gesture is the recipient and the giver of this art will both be enriched.”


Click to view slideshow.