Volume 17, Number 43 | March 18 - 24, 2005

Downtown Express photos by Michael White

Macy Rosenthal, 9, shows off the bracelets for sale at P.S. 234. Students at P.S. 89 and 150 are also selling them, left. A poster explaining the bracelet program, right.

Local schools unite to help tsunami victims

By Michael White

When last winter’s southern Asian tsunami struck, the devastating effects were felt all over. While monumental efforts to provide international relief have been covered in the media, students at P.S. 89, 150 and 234 are offering their own help to victims of the tsunami by selling multicolored rubber bracelets inscribed with this simple message: “We Care.”

In light of Mayor Bloomberg’s recent announcement that the New York City Department of Education and the United Federation of Teachers are partnering to launch a tsunami relief fund in the city’s public schools, students, parents and teachers alike are supporting the sale of the “We Care” bracelets. Funds collected in the schools during this twelve-week drive will be sent to specially-created New York City public school funds at two leading relief organizations, the American Red Cross in Greater New York and the International Rescue Committee. The bracelet sale is a large part of a series of money-collecting drives to donate to these groups.

“A lot of people are buying multiple bracelets and sending them to friends and family as their way of letting people know what this is all about,” said Elyn Rosenthal, director of the bracelet sales at P.S. 234, where her daughter, Macy, is in the fourth grade. “The third, fourth, and fifth graders... they were affected by 9/11 like us all. They still remember it,” said Rosenthal. “The selling of the bracelets is sort of their way of giving back to the community. They remember how people helped us after 9/11, and now it’s like they are giving back.”

Aside from the sentimental value, the $2 bracelets are also an extremely popular accessory. If you’re wearing them, “you know what’s going on,” said Rosenthal. “A lot of these students are thinking of 9/11 when they’re selling.”

P.S. 234 fourth-grader Lauren Biedel, 9, said of the bracelets: “I wear them because I feel bad about people in the tsunami. A lot of people were hurt when the flood came, and a lot of them don’t have homes now. It’s just a way to help them.” Lauren then added with a smile, “And they’re cool, too.” Biedel’s P.S. 234 classmate, Isabelle St. Clair, 9, added, “I don’t even take mine off to go to bed.”

“It’s sort of the ‘hip’ new thing,” Rosenthal says. They’re cheap, the money is going to charity, and they look cool.”

Angela Benfield, coordinator of the project for P.S. 89, agrees. “Forget for a second about the fact that the proceeds are going to charity,” Benfield said, “[bracelets] are a hot thing right now.”

Toni Coburn, coordinator of the bracelet program for P.S. 150, is pleased with how well the bracelets are being received. “Students sell them to neighbors, family and friends,” said Coburn. The bracelet sale is only one effort to raise funds for the Red Cross and the I.R.C. In addition, fifth grade students held a large bake sale, and the kindergarten class at the three schools held a coin drive, soliciting people for their pocket change.

The American Red Cross of Greater New York is responsible for rebuilding schools damaged by the tsunami, which Benfield says is the primary reason for donating the bracelet proceeds. “We wanted to hold a school fundraiser, and I thought it was a good idea to support tsunami victims.” All three schools plan to sell bracelets until the end of the year, or until their supply runs out.

“We sent out fliers, and I can’t believe the amount of orders we’ve gotten... it’s amazing,” said Benfield. “The flier went out this Monday, and within two days, we’ve sold over a hundred.”

And they are not just for kids. When asked on the phone if only children are purchasing and wearing the multicolored bracelets, Benfield responded with a chuckle, “I’m wearing one right now.” The bracelets, which sell for $2, are available in child and adult sizes. If you don’t have the chance to purchase the bracelets from a student, they are available at The Lunchbox, a small sandwich shop and cafe located right across the street from P.S. 234 on the corner of Greenwich and Chambers Sts.

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