Blank teen, other Lake students to receive shopping spreeWritten by Brandi Barhite | Community Ombudsman | firstname.lastname@example.org
Editor’s note: Toledo Free Press will follow the Blank family of Millbury for the next year as they rebuild their lives after a June 5 tornado destroyed their Main Street home.
Lake High School sophomore Casey Blank will be among the young tornado victims treated to a back-to-school shopping trip Aug. 22.
The Lake Kids Relief Fund is providing 40 children affected by the June 5 tornado with $200 Visa cards, according to Diane Witt, coordinator of the committee.
The young people will shop with their families and friends at JCPenney and Aeropostale at Fallen Timbers in Maumee, starting at 6 p.m. Afterward, they will eat ice cream at Cold Stone Creamery in Rossford.
“It was built around the fact that these kids aren’t going to ask for things,” Witt said. “They are taught not to ask.”
The idea for the fund came a few days after the tornado. Witt was being bombarded with questions about how to help the school and community because her husband, Jim, is the superintendent of Lake Local Schools.
Initially, Witt, who is a special education coordinator at the Wood County Educational Service Center, didn’t know what to tell them. But when she went to a summer baseball game and saw Casey, who had lost his house, she realized he didn’t have everything he needed to play ball.
She told Casey if she had known, she would have bought it. She wrongly assumed someone had taken care of it. She then thought, “Why didn’t you do something, Diane?”
By the next game, her family was presenting Casey with what he needed — and the Lake Kids Relief Fund was in the works.
Witt thought maybe she would get a few hundred dollars, but got a boost with a donation from the Jamie Farr Owens Corning Classic. Along with other donations, the fund has grown to more than $17,000.
The committee is made up of people who were directly impacted by the tornado, including Casey’s mother, Julie. Witt said the committee is focusing its efforts on 17 families who either lost their homes or have been displaced because their homes were severely damaged.
Witt said Julie feels so badly for other families, she is hesitant to do anything that will directly benefit her family. But Witt reminded Julie that “you are still going through things that are emotional.”
“[Julie] told us that Casey is excited about coming, so we won her over,” Witt said.
Among those attending the shopping event is the Kranz family, who lost their dad, Ted, in the tornado. Gerald Lathrop will also bring his toddler. He lost his fiancée, Bailey Bowman, in the tornado.
“We were really honored that they chose to come to our store and do their shopping,” said Daphne Avila, spokesman for JCPenney.
JCPenney has also provided 15 percent discount coupons for the shoppers and their families.
In the coming month, the Lake Kids Relief Fund committee wants to continue helping. One idea is to buy a gift for each child, whatever he or she wants. That could be a Barbie house or an Xbox. The committee isn’t setting a price limit.
“These will be items that are a priority to the kids, not to the parents,” Witt said. “We are trying to let kids be kids during this time of tragedy.”