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Fundraiser hopes students can help Katrina victims

East Aurorteacher Shane Gillespie talks one his Senior Survivor Liturature class hands out their next book read Wednesday November 14

East Aurora teacher Shane Gillespie talks to one of his Senior Survivor Liturature class and hands out their next book to read on Wednesday, November 14, 2012. Over spring break, Gillespie is taking the class to New Orleans to help rebuild areas still affected by Hurrican Katrina. | Brian Powers~Sun-Times Media

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Kermes for Katrina

Dec. 15, noon to 8 p.m.

East Aurora High School

500 Tomcat Lane

Or, send donations to

Shane Gillespie

East Aurora High School

500 Tomcat Lane

Aurora, IL 60505

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Updated: January 3, 2013 6:03AM

Hurricane Katrina may seem like a distant memory for most, but for the senior Tomcats in Shane Gillespie’s East Aurora High School Survivor Literature class, the disaster’s devastation is more obvious now than ever before. The students have spent the semester reading a memoir and watching documentaries about the catastrophe, and come March, they will travel to New Orleans to lend their hands to those left in the hurricane’s wake.

“This class solidified for me how terrible of an event (Katrina) was,” said student Amethyst Holman. “I couldn’t really remember it. I was really young.”

The goal of Gillespie’s class has been to inspire his students make change that goes beyond school walls. His students have raised funds to bring in speakers, including Holocaust survivor Greda Klein, whose memoir they read, and blind 9/11 survivor Michael Hingson.

This year, after reading Phyllis Montana-Leblanc’s memoir, “Not Just the Levees Broke,” the class has decided to take things one step further. Students decided to forego their spring break relaxation for spring break inspiration as they head to New Orleans as volunteers at Camp Restore.

It’s not an easy task—they need to raise $10,000 to make it happen—but a task they are very much looking forward to. “I tell the kids, if someone gives you a penny, it’s a penny you didn’t have before,” Gillespie said. He remains confident that they will reach their goal—and so do his students, who are amped up for their trip.

“It’s such a good feeling to do something for the good of other people,” said senior Isabel Favela. “It’s like a giant high.”

So, for the next few months, the students will be taking it upon themselves to raise the funds, one penny at a time.

They will be holding a fundraiser called “The Kermes for Katrina” on Dec. 15 from noon until 8 p.m. in the East Aurora High School cafeteria. Kermes is a Spanish word which essentially means selling food for a charitable cause, said Daizy Lopez.

The fund raiser will feature food, a children’s play area, and raffle.

People think that it was so many years ago and Louisiana residents don’t need help, but that isn’t the case, said Sarah Webber. Projects could include construction; park restoration; visiting nursing homes, youth centers and homeless shelters; or assembling backpacks for the needy.

“It’s one thing to learn about it in class, but it’s another to go get first-hand stories and see the devastation face-to-face,” Webber said.

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