When Tyler Lopez, a seventh grader on the Tenacious Tigers team at Western Hills, wrote a letter to principal Anthony Corrente, he was asking permission to run a fundraiser for Hurricane Sandy storm victims here in Rhode Island. He never expected to receive a challenge in return.
"As you know, this past week our state was impacted by tropical storm Sandy. In several communities, people lost everything," Lopez wrote. "I would like to propose a challenge to all the Western Hills Middle School students and raise money for the storm victims. For the class that raises the most money, I would propose that they receive a pizza party or a donut party of their choice."
When Lopez spoke to Corrente about his proposed fundraiser, he told Corrente that he hoped to raise approximately $400.
"I told him that if he raised $450, I'd pay for the pizza party myself," said Corrente.
Lopez accepted the challenge, and began looking for a charity that would guarantee that all of the monies raised would assist the local victims in need.
Just a few short weeks later, Lopez was presenting a check for $500 to Bernie Beaudreau, the executive director of Serve Rhode Island (www.ServeRhodeIsland.org).
The students at Western Hills had gone above and beyond both Lopez and Corrente's expectations.
"In Mesquamicut and Westerly, the tidal surge destroyed the area. There are broken homes, flooded roads and sand in houses," Beaudreau told the students. "There is devastation everywhere. We have worked with the Rhode Island Emergency Management Association, putting out a call for volunteers to help with cleanup, and over 200 people came that first day.”
Over eight weeks, Beaudreau said more than 1,100 volunteers flooded the area.
"We were able to do this because of people like you who raise the money to help pay for the things that these volunteers need. They need to eat, they need First Aid and your money has helped the hundreds who are down there do good things, to help take care of our own," Beaudreau said.
Theresa Murray, the executive director of the Rhode Island Emergency Management Association, agreed with Beaudreau.
"What you have done has been of tremendous service to the state of Rhode Island. We commend you for your efforts," she said. "We work very closely with Serve Rhode Island to help coordinate all emergency relief efforts."
Corrente was proud of his seventh grade students, rising to a challenge that came close to the holidays and amid other fundraisers and service projects at the school.
"This shows you just what you can do with $500. They can take it a long way and help Rhode Islanders in need in our state," Corrente said. "Congratulations to you all. You rose above my challenge and brought in more than even expected. That says a lot for your character as seventh graders and a lot about Tyler for taking the initiative.”