Fort Campbell | February 23, 2017
A foursome of sophomore students at Fort Campbell High School raised $550 for the White Helmets, also known as the Syrian Civil Defense.
Noah Sylvia, Dakota Zehler, Tyler Twiss and Riley Boyle sold snacks at the concession stand after school and accepted donations on behalf of the White Helmets every day for about four months.
The White Helmets are a volunteer corps of Syrians who act as first responders in the Syrian civil war.
“They are the people who run in right after a bomb goes off or a building collapses,” Sylvia said. “They just run in there and start saving people. They know there might be another attack afterward, but it doesn’t matter to them. All they care about is saving people. They don’t care who it is – government or rebels – they just care about saving lives.”
Sylvia said the idea for the project came to him while he and his friends were researching the Syrian Refugee Crisis for a debate in their Model United Nations class in September.
“It just seemed like nobody was actively doing anything to help these people in need,” Sylvia said. “I didn’t feel like enough was being done. I was tired of sitting around, hoping something would change, so I figured, ‘Why not me?’”
At first, the four students each gave class presentations to inform their colleagues about the Syrian Refugee Crisis.
Zehler said he agreed to join Sylvia for this fundraiser to help spread the word and to educate more students about the White Helmets and what they do to help Syrians.
“A lot of my classmates didn’t realize what was going on in Syria until I gave the presentations,” he said. “When I started talking about that a lot of them were really shocked. It’s the sad truth, but it’s the world we live in. We can’t just sit on the sidelines and watch everything go down.”
During the presentations, the students watched two video clips which summed up the Syrian Refugee Crisis. Sylvia said the presenters were also able to answer any questions students had. He said they also encouraged the students to buy snacks from the concession stand after school to donate to the cause.
“I must have done at least 10 presentations before I brought on [Zehler, Twiss and Boyle] to help me,” he said. “The first day I received $15 in donations just from the presentations. People want to help, but sometimes they just don’t know how.”
After giving countless presentations to different classes, the four then took over the concessions stand after school. Zehler said initially they were only supposed to run the concession stand once a week, but eventually they were open for business every day after school.
Twiss said customers at the concessions stand were generous, including students, faculty and staff.
“For a lot of our classmates, the concessions stand was a win-win situation,” Twiss said. “Our friends were able to buy snacks for themselves, but they knew they were also helping to raise money to help kids in Syria. We even had one teacher who paid $20 for one brownie.”
The pantry was stocked by trips to the commissary, but also by donations from teachers and parents, Sylvia said.
“Some days it would be really slow and we would only make $10, but Fridays would be busier and we would get slammed,” he said.
Twiss said about $100 of the total was donated by students and teachers on behalf of Sylvia’s birthday.
“[Sylvia] honestly doesn’t get half the credit he deserves,” Twiss said. “For [his] birthday this year, he told everyone he didn’t want any presents, he just wanted people to donate to the fundraiser, so that’s what people did.”
Twiss joined the fundraiser because he wanted to help make Sylvia’s idea come to life and to be a more active member of his community. He said he plans to do more things like this in the future.
“A lot of times, teenagers get the [reputation] for being lazy or entitled, so I wanted to take this opportunity to help someone else out,” he said.
For many military children, living overseas and being exposed to other parts of the world, helps them to better understand the world and many societies around them, Twiss said. As a military child, he was born in Germany and has lived in Korea, Vietnam and Australia, as well as several states in the United States of America.
“Seeing all those different cultures and seeing so much diversity has really opened my eyes,” he said. “There are places different from the United States – good and bad. It makes you know what’s out there. Everyone is just so different, but it’s easier to hop on board and be willing to help people from around the world when you’ve seen more of it, like a lot of military children have.”
During the fundraiser, Sylvia said he deposited money into the MUN bank account every time they reached their goal of $200. Kenneth Jankowski, MUN teacher, assisted Sylvia with the financial details of the fundraiser.
“It doesn’t seem like a lot, but looking at that $200 each time … it made us all very proud,” Sylvia said. “We knew it was going to a good cause.”
Zehler said he is proud of everything they have accomplished as a team.
“We know that $500 isn’t a lot, but we hope it can help them afford more medical supplies to help save more lives,” he said. “Any money that we can give them … it’s worth it.”
All of the money that was raised to help the White Helmets will go directly to their organization, Jankowski said.
“Most people only think of themselves, and if we are lucky they think of local communities around them, but for these kids, they are trying to make a difference in local communities, but also in an international community,” he said. “I couldn’t be any prouder of these kids. They are being so unselfish.”