Leechburg High School students camp in cold to promote fundraiser
Earthquakes, floods, tornadoes, typhoons and drought are not usual occurrences in Western Pennsylvania, but for millions, natural disasters and conflicts globally cause devastation for families who are often left homeless.
Leechburg High School Interact Club students are exploring that unthinkable prospect with their latest fundraiser — for ShelterBox — raising $1,000 to purchase a ShelterBox that will one day be shipped to a family made homeless by disaster.
ShelterBox, founded in England in 2000, is a global disaster relief charity, working with Rotary International. It provides emergency shelter and vital supplies to help communities worldwide that are overwhelmed by humanitarian crises and natural disasters.
Brushing away snowflakes on a frigid Sunday morning, students worked under the guidance of husband-and-wife ShelterBox ambassadors Tom and Marie Grant, setting up a tent on the high school campus and supplies from a packed green ShelterBox.
Within 20 minutes, a large durable tent, the heart of every ShelterBox, was erected and the club began prepping for their 48-hour charity camping event.
Students will camp in shifts alongside teacher volunteers, accepting donations through 8 a.m. Tuesday.
A pancake and sausage breakfast on Saturday at Cross Roads Community Presbyterian Church in Leechburg is planned, with all proceeds benefiting their ShelterBox project.
Club sponsor Michelle Ferretti said Interact was looking for a charity with an international influence.
“Our Leechburg Rotary suggested ShelterBox, and I am excited about this project,” said Ferretti. “We are promoting awareness on ShelterBox, and the kids participating are not using electronic devices while camping and are experiencing what it would be like to live in a ShelterBox tent.”
“I think it is crazy that families have to live in tents,” said Madison Walker, a seventh-grader in Interact. “I'm glad we are doing this, and I have learned through our research that some families (like some in Haiti) have lived in ShelterBox tents for years.”
One ShelterBox costs $1,000.
ShelterBox USA was started in 2002 by the Rotary Club of Lakewood Ranch, Fla. To date, it has responded to more than 240 disasters in more than 95 countries, including the 2011 Japan earthquake and tsunami, the Syrian conflict and refugee crisis, Thailand flooding in 2011 and the Haiti earthquake in 2010.
ShelterBox provides temporary shelter and lifesaving supplies via large, sturdy green boxes that are customized to meet a specific disaster. The boxes are delivered by ShelterBox response teams to such disaster-stricken countries as the Philippines, Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, Turkey, Japan and Haiti.
“As of April 1, ShelterBox has helped more than 1 million people worldwide,” said Tom Grant, president of the Rotary Club of Zelienople and one of 400 volunteers throughout the U.S. representing ShelterBox. “We did bring extra blankets for the students since it is so cold.”
Grant praised Leechburg on being the first high school in the Pittsburgh region to partner with ShelterBox.
Once the Interact Club purchases its first ShelterBox, the students will be able to track the box and see what part of the world the temporary house is in.
“It's cool that there is so much in a box that can help a family,” said Carrie Klingensmith, a freshman and Interact Club volunteer.
The aid one 49-gallon ShelterBox delivers is customized to the climate and conditions of the disaster region, but commonly contains one or two custom-designed tents for an extended family, shelter kits to repair damaged dwellings, water storage and purification equipment, a stove with cooking and eating utensils, blankets and waterproof ground sheets, solar lamps, mosquito nets, children's comfort packs, tool kits, insulated sleeping mats and more.
Leechburg junior Josie Emminger loves to camp and has signed up for the entire 48-hour shift.
“This is camping for a cause,” Emminger said. “Although when people camp these days, they usually have luxuries, so this is different because we are trying to camp ‘off the grid,' and I am so excited to raise money for this cause. We are all trying to get in the mindset of how the people must feel living in the tent. I know when I go home after 48 hours here in the ShelterBox tent and sleep in my own bed, I will appreciate it more.”
Joyce Hanz is a contributing writer for the Tribune-Review.