[Editor’s note: This story originally ran on KHOU.com on Sept. 1, 2017]
Students at LaPorte High School in Indiana typically have to worry about snowstorms, not hurricanes. But when they heard students at La Porte High School in Texas were affected by Hurricane Harvey, they sprung to help.
Although there’s 1,100 miles separating the two schools and most students haven’t met one another, the student council devised a plan to help: With the principal’s blessing, students could pay $2 to wear hats in school on Friday, which is typically prohibited under school rules. All the money raised will be donated their fellow students in Texas.
“We have to do something, even if that something won’t move mountains, just to have an impact,” said Joe Ruiz, a business teacher at LaPorte High School and co-sponsor of the student council.
Local middle and elementary schools and even people from the community joined in the fundraising efforts, too. Ruiz said he thought at the beginning they could raise $200; by Friday morning, he said that number could reach $1,000.
La Porte, Ind., is a small tight-knit community, Ruiz said, about an hour east of Chicago with a population just over 22,000 as of the 2010 Census. I The town has a Friday Night Lights feel, Ruiz said, referring to the popular TV show—on the town’s main strip, posters of football players hang on lampposts and there are posters of students hang across town. Word spread in their community that family and friends in Texas were affected by Harvey, including Ruiz’s father whose Pasadena home suffered some damage.
“We all support each other and prop each other up,” Ruiz said.
Ruiz reached out to Terri Cook, the communications director for La Porte ISD, who was thrilled to hear the news.
“Just as you begin to believe that nothing could exceed the breadth of the unimaginable devastation our region has experienced, we are reminded of the depth of American caring and generosity and the hope that it provides us all. The actions of La Porte High School in La Porte, Indiana, are quintessential examples of this, with the serendipity of similar names leading them to help in our students’ return to normalcy,” said La Porte ISD Superintendent Lloyd W. Graham.
The high school suffered minimal damage during Harvey, but there are students and families who were affected during the storm who needed help, Cook said. Students at La Porte ISD here in Texas report to class Sept. 6.
Until then, their counterparts in Indiana will continue to help how they can.
“Everybody is really playing a role in trying to help from a long distance,” Ruiz said. “I’m happy it’s all worked.”