LITTLE FALLS — Students at Benton Hall Academy came together to help the military families of Tyndall Air Force Base — which includes one of their fellow classmates — by donating food and supplies.
Stefanie Koch, a second-grade teacher at the elementary school, was inspired to organize the drive after becoming aware of the families’ needs after a Category 4 storm slammed Panama City, Florida.
"The purpose was for everyone to do something together, where we could all get involved and help others, and tie into Veterans Day," Koch said.
One of the families that will be helped is the Caracane family. Dominick Caracane is a fifth-grade student at Benton Hall after returning to the area with his family, including his parents Thomas and Kelly Caracane, due to the devastation brought by Hurricane Michael a month ago. Thomas Caracane is a master sergeant in the U.S. Air Force and was stationed at the base.
Koch, who is related to the Caracane family, said she and Dominick Caracane talked about the hurricane and its impact during a recent morning program at the school and then informed the student body about the drive. Letters also went home to parents informing them about the drive, including what items could be collected.
Numerous students brought in items that can be used for the drive including canned goods, boxed goods, diapers, shampoo, pillows, blankets, books, cleaning supplies and school supplies. Koch said there was a competition between Benton Hall classrooms to see who could collect the most — with the winning classroom earning an ice cream party. More than 300 items were collected, according to Koch.
Handwritten letters from the students also will be included to the affected families.
Koch said the supplies will be boxed and shipped with the help of some of her teacher colleagues.