EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Merrimack Valley

June 24, 2013

South Lawrence East students donate $1,420 to school in Moore, Okla., ravaged by tornado

LAWRENCE — When tornadoes hit Moore, Okla., last month with 210 mph winds, Mary A. Toomey had a connection with one particular story.

Seven second- and third-graders at Plaza Towers Elementary School were among the 24 people killed in the disaster.

“We were saddened by it and wanted to help the children,” said Toomey, principal at South Lawrence East Elementary School.

The news moved Toomey so much, she started a drive to collect loose change for the students in Moore. She dubbed the drive “Moo for Moore” as a pun, and placed milk jugs in each of the 24 classrooms so students could drop off their donations.

Toomey sent a letter to Amy Simpson, principal at Plaza Towers Elementary explaining her idea. The city of Moore, is part of the Oklahoma City metro area and is the seventh largest city in the state.

“Our students were very concerned after learning about the devastation to your community caused by the recent tornadoes. We send our sympathy and prayers for all that has been lost,” Toomey wrote.

Toomey said it’s difficult to ask students at South Lawrence East for donations since the majority of them live in poverty and receive free or reduced lunch. Yet, every day, she would see students carrying plastic bags filled with nickles and pennies.

Toomey thought the 552 students in first to fourth grades would raise $500 at the most. Much to her surprise, the amount totaled $1,420.64.

“They were genuinely generous. We were amazed and humbled to see when we ask for money, those who have little give so much.

“There’s a lesson in there. I think they understand what is like to be in need. Our children have a big heart and their parents do too,” Toomey said.

Simpson of Plaza Towers Elementary School showed her gratitude in an email.

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