PUBLISHED: 5:40 PM on Wednesday, February 23, 2005
Ketchikan Boys & Girls Club raises funds for tsunami victims

Photo by Angela J. Perez
  Shyanne Cooper and Paul Bermudez Jr. (with Amy LaSage in background) are excited about being able to help kids affected by the Southeast Asian tsunami disaster.
When the tsunami hit the Indian Ocean, the world was shocked and people from all over were extending their hands to help the victims, even the youngest of hands reached out to help those in need.

Some of those hands belong to kids who are members of the Ketchikan Boys and Girls Club, otherwise known as The Warehouse.

Tony Azure, unit manager for The Warehouse Boys and Girls Club, received a call in the middle of January to see if they were interested in helping in some way with the tsunami crisis.

"We were kind of left out of the loop," Azure said, "so we only had a few weeks to get everything done and turned in by the 28th of January."

He turned the project over to one of his staff members, Amy LaSage, who heads the Keystone Club at The Warehouse, which organizes community and club services. They rolled up their sleeves and made donation jars to put around the local businesses. During their project, La Sage talked with them about how the tsunami affected the victims, as well as how a tsunami would affect Ketchikan if one were to hit southeast.

"They were curious because they had been talking about the tsunami in the schools," LaSage said.

She added that the kids learned about the importance of helping others and they even donated some of their own money.

"I was feeling happy to save money for kids," said 9-year-old Shyanne Cooper, who comes to The Warehouse every day after school.

"I'd like to do it again," she added, "I had lots of fun and I was happy to do it because I like art."

The elaborately decorated art room is hot spot for a lot of the kids at The Warehouse. There they can let their imaginations run free with different projects. The Warehouse also caters to those who aren't into art as much as the next kid.

"I'm a pool freak!" admits 8-year-old Paul Bermudez Jr. who also comes to The Warehouse every day after school. He hangs out around the pool table the most he said, but when the kids were making the donation jars, he was one of the first ones to jump into creative mode in the art room.

"It felt good to be able to help the kids that were affected by the tsunami," Bermudez said. "It made me happy."

In the short time they had to come up with an idea to help, create the jars, put them around town at local businesses, then gather up all monies that were donated, they were able to collect over one hundred dollars to send to the victims, and not just any victim, but to the children who were affected.

"It's kids helping kids" Azure said.

The Tsunami Relief Effort through the Boys and Girls Club is a nationwide fundraising effort to provide relief for the kids who were affected by the tsunami. The kids not only did what they could to help the children victims of the tsunami, they have also helped in other ways, such as Operation Christmas in December of last year.

The Warehouse kids, in collaboration with the Ketchikan Indian Community, collected gifts that were donated by local businesses in Ketchikan in order to give them to disadvantaged children for Christmas. And recently, they made valentines cards and brought them to the residents of the Pioneer's Home.

"The kids are learning to work as a team with caring adults," Azure said.

He said he believes that is key in helping them reach their mission: To inspire and enable all young people to realize their full potential as productive, responsible, and caring citizens. Another way they do this is through the programs they offer such as Power Hour for homework help; Smart Moves, a drug prevention and education program; and the Keystone Club, as well as other programs with more in the making.

The staff at The Warehouse Boys and Girls Club receives a lot of training, Azure said. Such as Project Lead, a suicide prevention program that teaches the staff to recognize signs of at-risk kids and what to do about it. As well as teaching kids the importance of helping others, like they did with the Tsunami Relief Effort.

"When the tsunami happened everybody was caught off guard," LaSage said. "We talked about different fundraising ideas in order to set up an emergency fund."

This way, rather than waiting until disaster strikes, the emergency fund will be there already. The kids will be working on different fundraisers throughout the year saving up the money in the fund.

"Then when an emergency comes up," LaSage explained, "the money is there and the kids can decide where to donate the money to."

In this way, these young hands will continue to help those in need.

For more information on ways you can help The Warehouse Boys and Girls Club, contact Tony Azure at (907) 247-4256.