Chevy Chase Elementary students collect backpacks for students affected by Hurricane Sandy -- Gazette.Net






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When Fiona M. Newman’s grandmother’s home in Long Beach, N.Y. was badly damaged by Hurricane Sandy in late October, she wanted to help.

After first considering sending food for dogs and cats, the Chevy Chase Elementary School third-grader and her parents chose to fill backpacks for school children in need.

Their idea quickly turned into a school-wide project that resulted in donations of more than 160 backpacks filled with school supplies, games, stuffed animals and personal notes, Fiona’s mother, Kathleen McNulty, said.

“I work with many people who have suffered from posttraumatic stress disorder. It’s very important to let people know they have not been forgotten and that they are cared about,” McNulty, a psychotherapist, wrote in an email.

The backpacks were shipped or driven to McNulty’s relatives: a teacher and two New York City firemen.

“Just within my cousin Gary’s Rockaway, [N.Y.] firehouse, there were 25 firemen who had lost their homes in the storm,” McNulty wrote.

Sophia Ayaz, a first-grader at Rosemary Hills Elementary School in Silver Spring, who has a sister at Chevy Chase, already received a thank you note from a boy who got the backpack she donated.

“It was from a boy from Rockaway Beach, N.Y.,” Sophia’s mother, Nicole Ayaz, said. “He thanked her for the pack and supplies and added a P.S. saying ‘I will be your pen pal.’ She is very excited.”

“It was heartfelt to watch the community, staff and students come together,” Chevy Chase Principal Jody Smith said. “Every day we talk about pay it forward ... step out of our comfort zone to help another ... this was a huge pay it forward and we know it made a difference.”