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To Australia with love

Students across area raise funds for fire-ravaged country

Area students are spearheading fundraisers to support those affected by bushfires in Australia that have been burning for months. We asked some districts for details, and here’s what we learned.

Josie Costello, left, and Evelyn Waclawski, fifth graders at Northern Trails 5/6 School

Forest Hills

Josephine Costello and Evelyn Waclawski, fifth graders at Northern Trails 5/6 School, held a fundraiser at their school and at Central Woodlands 5/6 School to help Australian people and animals. They created a Friday hat day with a suggested donation of $1 or more and raised $1,410. The funds will be sent to the Australian Red Cross.


Reese Kinney hops from one foot to the other as she tells a visitor that her first favorite animal is the koala. “My second is a pug, and my third is a bunny,” she added. “I like a lot of animals.”

So when she saw video of animals that had died because of wildfires in Australia, Reese got permission to place collection jars around Murray Lake Elementary School, where she is in first grade.

“There’s an ostrich on the one in the office, a koala on the one in my classroom and a joey in the library,” she said.

Reese has collected hundreds from the donation jars, and also has been raising funds online for the Australia Zoo Wildlife Hospital. Most recently the online tally was more than $1,300.

“We’re trying to go way higher than that,” Reese said. “We need to save them all.”

Brown Elementary second grader Wes Holland and his sister, Lily, have raised more than $2,000 for the World Wildlife Fund of Australia

Byron Center

Siblings Lily and Wes Holland of Brown Elementary School share a love for animals and helping out. They have already raised more than $2,280 for the World Wildlife Fund of Australia through the fundraising platform everydayhero.

Lily, a fourth grader, said after she heard about the bushfires she had to take action. “I immediately thought, ‘I have to do something to help, even if it was just spreading the word.”

She and Wes, a second grader, made a YouTube video, and teachers, staff members, friends and community members have donated.

The animal lovers said their goal was to raise $1,500 and they are so happy they have raised even more than that. “It’s great that we have raised over our goal and we can keep helping until the wildfires go out,” Wes said.

Marshall Elementary students are also raising funds through a coin war led by Student Council, for which classes are competing to fill buckets with coins. Students are also writing announcements and making videos to promote the fundraiser.

Selah Noll will be selling baked goods at the Belmont Elementary School carnival to help save Australian animals, with the support of Principal Shannon Oullette


Second grader Selah Noll enjoys baking cookies and “really fun muffins” with her Nana, Sally Noll of Sparta, especially at Christmas. So when Selah heard about the Australia fires, she said she her mom thought, “Why not hold a bake sale?”

Selah, her mom and Nana will be selling sweets at the Belmont Elementary School carnival tonight, Jan. 31. On offer will be chocolate muffins with Reese’s Pieces in the middle, “monster cookies” embedded with M&M’s, and whatever else Nana bakes.

At midweek Selah was baking up a storm and had already gotten over $100 in donations from a Facebook post. The Belmont Student Council was also collecting coins with buckets representing different animals. Funds raised will be donated to the Australian Red Cross and World Wildlife Fund of Australia.

“There are lots of people that are coming to the carnival, so I need to make a lot,” Selah said. She planned to have a table featuring a poster with a map of Australia, and pictures of a kangaroo and a koala, crying.

She wants her bake sale to keep more animals from crying, or worse.

“I don’t want every animal to be burned,” she said. “I want to do it as soon as I can, so I can help before they all die.”

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Morgan Jarema
Morgan Jarema
Morgan Jarema is a reporter and copy editor, covering Northview. She is a Grand Rapids native and a product of Grand Rapids Public Schools, including Brookside and West Leonard elementaries, City Middle/High School and Ottawa Hills. She found her tribe in journalism in 1997 and has never wanted to do anything but write. For 15 years she was a freelance journalist for The Grand Rapids Press, covering local schools and government, religion, business, home & garden and lifestyles. She and her husband, John, think even those without kiddos should be invested in their local schools and made to feel a part of them. Read Morgan's full bio


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