Written by Elaine Ajello Wednesday, 24 June 2009 14:20
(Editor’s note: At last week’s BOE meeting, Daly Principal Elaine Ajello proudly announced that the $250,000 goal, which was necessary to fund the Mobile Medical Unit through the Children’s Health Fund, had been reached. We asked her to give us the background and some of the details of this enormously worthwhile cause, for those readers who are unfamiliar with it.)
In September of 2005, Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast with devastating results. The seven principals of the Port Washington School District felt that we as district administrators should respond, especially to the schools that had been hit beyond repair. We soon found out the damage was so severe that it would take months before our efforts would be valuable to the damaged school districts.
At that time, we learned of an organization called The Children’s Health Fund that was sending Mobile Medical Units (MMU’s) to the area to provide medical care to families. Many hospitals and doctors’ offices were not able to operate or care for the huge number of people who needed immediate medical care. The Mobile Medical Units caught our interest. What if we, the Port Washington School District and the Port Washington community could pool resources and create something long lasting and meaningful to those in need? Our thought was that a mobile medical unit would be a gift that could keep on giving as it could continually travel to all areas of the country to assist in the physical and mental health of children and their families. We, as principals, felt it was also a wonderful project for our students to engage in and see how the power of children working together could develop compassion, empathy for others, and the satisfaction of a project completed.
Three and a half years later, and the project is completed. Due in tremendous part by the Port Washington students, $250,000 has been raised and our MMU is built and on its way to providing health care to medically underserved children across the United States. The MMU is equipped with all necessary medical supplies and doctors and nurses to offer assistance to families and communities. We have been informed that the MMU, supported by the Port Washington community, was sent to Detroit, Michigan to offer medical aid to families who have been laid off from work in the automotive industry.
Who do we thank for the completion of this project? First, the students of the school district must be commended for the hard work they put into raising over two thirds of the funds. Our elementary students sold lemonade, participated in talent shows, walked marathons, sold handmade friendship bracelets, donated birthday and Bar Mitzvah money and organized snack and garage sales. Our middle school students held an art auction of their own work, sold first aid kits, had volleyball games and held many creative events to raise their money. Our senior high school students held fashion shows and sold water at events.
The staff of the district held “Casual for a Cause” days to pay for the privilege to dress casually for one day a week throughout the year. Some adults made beautiful bracelets to sell, and several teachers created workshops for people to come and make a craft.
The community of Port Washington also joined in the effort to get the MMU on the road. The religious organizations and service clubs were very active contributors to this project. Containers were placed in businesses around town that yielded funds for the van. Our Police and Fire departments held friendly basketball games for the past three years with the proceeds donated to the cause.
We give a special thank you to the Future Leadership Foundation for their generous support to this project. They understood that teaching young children philanthropy now will create future board members willing to give their time and money to help others.
According to Rachel Hanser, a Children’s Health Fund spokesperson, this is the first time a Mobile Medical Unit has been built by a town and/or a school district. But there is a deeper result at work. The students who have been involved in this project have learned how to give to others. They have worked tirelessly not for themselves, but for those less fortunate than they are. This community and school district effort will reap rewards for the people involved in the life of Port Washington. Raising funds for needy families raises a community spirit and leads to a bonding of a community. Pride in one’s town and caring for others becomes a role model for our own children and adds another level to their education. Caring for others and performing community service is a hallmark of character education. Many people have benefited from joining together and working toward a common goal. The MMU our community has built will be here for the 2009 Pride in Port parade. Please come out to see it.