After Hurricane Harvey’s devastating hit, Mayflower Elementary’s Aubrey Smith knew she wanted to do something special to help the victims.
The fourth grader said one day she and her mom were talking about the damage the hurricane caused and the effect it had on Houston and surrounding areas and considered doing some type of fundraiser.
Smith took the three possible ideas she came up with to her principal Candie Watts and together, sat down and talked about each.
"We were left with two, and I let Aubrey decide which one she thought would be best for us and easiest," Watts said.
Smith decided on doing a penny drive and placed a bucket in each classroom. The drive began around two weeks ago and recently concluded.
Watts said they began by posting on Facebook about the event through the elementary school’s page.
"At that time, we didn’t really have a specific person or charity that we were going to send it to," she said.
Through social media, Watts said, a Houston resident with ties to Mayflower, Kathy Rogers, contacted them and suggested they adopt Bear Creek Elementary in the Katy Independent School District, which had suffered such grave effects that the school had to be relocated, not to mention the damage the students, parents and overall school community had received.
"That’s when we began to make it a little more personal and [let] people know where we would be sending that money," she said. "Aubrey loved the idea of sending it to another elementary school."
Watts said Smith did all the work for the fundraiser and even send out two recorded messages about the project through the school’s message network, which is when she said the funds really started to pick up and pour in.
On the last day they collected money, Watts said they were at $363, just $37 short of their $400 goal and decided to make an announcement through the intercom system.
"That came in immediately," she said. "We had staff members writing checks. That was really good."
The total for what the school raised came to around $407, but Watts told the Log Cabin Democrat that what Smith didn’t know is that another person at Gap Mission Church saw the post on Facebook about the fundraiser, worked with the kids at the church, contacted the school and donated a check for $500, bringing the total to $907.
When Smith found out, she said she was emotional, wanted to cry and was glad her peers and the community was able to raise as much as they did to be able to donate to an elementary school and other kids.
"That makes me feel really happy and that [my peers] actually [took] the time to gather money up and bring it to us and make up a bigger total," she said.
Watts said she contacted Bear Creek’s principal, who was taken aback by the efforts, and told her about the fundraiser.
"She was ecstatic," she said. "She was very touched that someone that she had never met, never talked to before, was actually paying attention to the struggles that were happening in their community and of course, that it was led by a student made that even more touching to her."
Watts said $900 goes a long way in a school and they were excited about being able to do their small part, especially since so many helped out the Mayflower community after the tornadoes in recent years came through leaving much damage in its wake.
"[We’re] proud of Aubrey," she said. "She’s a great example for other students and other grown-ups. We’ve had a lot of devastating and bad news going on so it’s nice to see something good happening."
The environment of giving, Watts said, is encouraged and taught at the school.
"It’s part of our mission to create service-minded citizens and it’s been contagious since Aubrey kind of led the charge this year," she said. "There have been many other students wanting to do many other things."
Watts said as a school leader, seeing students understand this concept they are trying to foster gives her hope.
"Our future is actually in their hands and training them up this early to be empathetic students, then we can only have a stronger community as a result," she said. "We’re very happy about that."
Watts will be mailing the check to Bear Creek soon, but included in that envelope will also be a hand written letter by Aubrey to the school introducing herself and explaining what Mayflower has been doing for the past two weeks.
"We have raised almost [$900] dollars for you to rebuild and buy new things. I hope the money our school has raised is enough for you to buy new supplies and more stuff for classrooms," she wrote. "Love, Aubrey Jaycee Smith."
I hope the money our school has raised is enough for you to buy new supplies and more stuff for classrooms. Love, Aubrey Jaycee Smith," she wrote.