Forgoing Birthday Gifts to Give to Others

Vicki Ostrin of the Red Cross accepts a $500 check from Goodwin Elementary School students Amanda Pernal and Peter Wisialowski.
Vicki Ostrin of the Red Cross accepts a $500 check from Goodwin Elementary School students Amanda Pernal and Peter Wisialowski. Photo by Becky Coffey/The Harbor News Buy Photo

OLD SAYBROOK - For Goodwin Elementary School student Amanda Pernal, the images of Storm Sandy victims and of their despair were overwhelming and sad. So she decided she wanted to do something to help.

"My family and I had watched a benefit telethon on TV that was raising money to help victims of Hurricane Sandy. I saw how many people were devastated and I wondered what I could do to help. I decided for my birthday to ask for money for hurricane-relief efforts so I could make a donation," said Amanda.

So instead of receiving birthday gifts from friends, she asked them to give her donations for storm victims. This month Amanda delivered to Principal Sheila Brown an envelope filled with more than $50 in donations.

And her gift wasn't the only one from the Goodwin School community for Storm Sandy victims. The Wisialowski family also made a huge donation to the cause, as did the Goodwin School staff, according to Brown.

Along with these donations were the hundreds of pennies that individual students and their families donated to the PennySaurus Bank, a blue dinosaur in the school's lobby.

"Each year, the Goodwin School designates the month of December as a time of giving. Among several other initiatives, a penny collection takes place throughout the month. This year the school community identified their Old Saybrook neighbors who suffered damage to their homes and belongings from Storm Sandy as the recipients of our efforts," said Brown. "A total of $500 in donations was raised."

Last week, Amanda Pernal and Peter Wisialowski delivered to Vicki Ostrin of the Red Cross a $500 check with the results of the school community's collection efforts.

"It felt really good to donate the money," said Amanda.

The Liberty Bank in Old Saybrook offered to count the contents of the PennySaurus Bank. Just from that source alone, more than $300 in loose coins, mostly in pennies, was collected.

Ostrin explained the Red Cross helps storm victims in many ways.

"We help them by opening shelters where we serve hot meals, have blankets and cots, and medical personnel. We also help them with disaster assessment by looking at the damage to their homes and help with their transition from the temporary shelter to finding a more permanent place to live," said Ostrin.

Goodwin's giving initiative this year benefited the Red Cross and storm victims, but in other years, local agencies were the school giving initiatives' beneficiaries. Brown said the school community has raised thousands of dollars for local agencies such as the Shoreline Soup Kitchen as well as helping victims of other disasters like Hurricane Katrina.

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