Alumni collecting Halloween costumes for students affected by Hurricane Irma
(MARATHON, Fla.) — Former Marathon, Florida, residents are returning to their community after it was ravaged by Hurricane Irma in hopes of ensuring children there are able to celebrate Halloween.
Five alumni from Marathon High School — Krystal Langley, Stephenie Fenton, Philip Augustine, Vivi Mira-Culmer, Johnny Moses and Tracy Garcia — have banded together to create MM50 Relief Project, Inc., a non-profit organization dedicated to helping rebuild the town.
It began with Langley, class of 1990, who started collecting supplies and toiletries the day after Hurricane Irma made landfall last month, the Coconut Creek, Florida resident told ABC News.
“Since the hurricane missed us, I realized that my neighbors and my surrounding communities had probably gone out to buy hurricane supplies that they weren’t going to use,” she explained.
She then told neighbors and friends via social media that she’d love to “collect all those unused hurricane relief supplies” to give to whose who really need them in Marathon.
After Langley, 44, began her efforts, her classmates from Marathon High School, who had also thought about ways to give back to their hard-hit community, wanted to join her.
They then “joined forces,” Fenton, 43, told ABC News.
“It’s better for the five of us to work together instead of doing competing efforts,” she said.
With Halloween coming up, the alumni didn’t want students in their childhood community to feel left out. Especially since Halloween is celebrated so widely in Marathon.
The annual Stanley Switlik Annual Halloween Carnival, held in the elementary school of the same name, kicks off the Halloween season every year. And this year, despite the hurricane, it will kick off festivities on Oct. 22, parent teacher organization president Ashley Keeney told ABC News.
“Halloween is huge down here,” she said.
Keeney, whose daughter attends Switlik Elementary School in Marathon, is now partnering with the MM50 Relief Project to ensure every student has a Halloween costume this year.
“The reason why so much emphasis was put on [the Halloween festival] is those kids have been through so much and they really need a sense of normalcy at this point,” Langley said.
“You get kind of emotional thinking about it, but it really is our home,” Augustine added. “Once the storm went through and we had a chance to digest what really went on down there, there wasn’t a question in my mind … that we had to do what we could do to help.”
So far, the organization has collected nearly 200 costumes and more than 650 pounds of candy to hand out to children.
Keeney, whose home was also damaged at the hands of Hurricane Irma, said this year they won’t be charging residents to attend the festival. Previously, the festival was the school’s biggest fundraiser, used to support teachers and offset costs for field trips and student activities, she said.
“However this year, since everyone’s been severely impacted by Irma we didn’t want to charge anybody,” she said. “We just want people to take a break from cleaning up and rebuilding.”
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