Area school district raising funds for tornado victims

EBENSBURG – Central Cambria students plan to offer their support to the Oklahoma community devastated by a category F5 tornado last week.

The district plans to send a bus filled with handwritten student notes and a monetary donation to the Moore Public School District.

A monetary donation from students and their families will pay for the bus-shaped notes, which students are encouraged to use to write a letter of support to the students affected by the tornado, Central Cambria Superintendent Vincent DiLeo said.

“It’s such a good community up here. … Everybody, when there’s someone in need, wants to donate and contribute,” DiLeo said.

The district is asking students and families to “cover the bus” with notes of support and hopes to raise a substantial amount of money to help the district, which is trying to recover in the wake of the devastation, DiLeo said.

DiLeo contacted his nephew Nick Bender, who works as a meteorologist at KWTV News 9 in Oklahoma, about ways the district could help with possible donations for tornado victims.

Bender said the Moore community has been appreciative of the massive support received over the past week.

“I can tell you that it means the world to the people of Oklahoma – the outreach from the rest of the county with helping us out here,” Bender said when contacted by phone on Tuesday. “It’s really nice to know there’s people outside of Oklahoma … that hear this and it calls them to action.”

A graduate of Altoona Area High School and Penn State University, Bender said it was good to see Central Cambria students and the central Pennsylvania community offering its support to those in need of help.

Even as recovery efforts begin, Oklahoma residents are bracing for another few days of severe weather, Bender said. Despite covering multiple storms as a meteorologist, Bender said it never gets easier to witness the destruction the storms can bring.

“It doesn’t, especially when it’s so close to home. It looks like a war zone,” he said.

Seven elementary school students at Plaza Towers Elementary School lost their lives after the tornado demolished their school building.

Bender said thousands of people lost everything in the storm, including their homes, possessions and sense of normalcy, Bender said.

“We still need as much help as we can get,” Bender said.

Central Cambria officials are hopeful the donations to the Moore schools will help aid in the rebuilding process.

In November, Central Cambria collected food, clothing, supplies and other goods for victims of Hurricane Sandy. Officials planned to take one bus to New Jersey to drop off donations but needed a second bus to accommodate the high volume of goods dropped off at the school.

The bus collecting notes for Moore students will be in front of the high school today and at Jackson Township Elementary School on Thursday morning, DiLeo said. Monetary donations will be accepted at both locations or at the district office in the high school.

Mirror Staff Writer Zach Geiger is at 946-7535.