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Students raise money for hurricane relief

By Kaitlin McCabe '16

November 29, 2012

In wake of Hurricane Sandy, areas along the East Coast of the United States remain devastated by the storm.  The Washington Post reported that this Category 1 storm became the largest Atlantic hurricane on record, as measured by diameter with winds spanning 1,100 miles, and is estimated in early calculations to have caused damage of at least $20 billion.   To date, Sandy was the second-costliest Atlantic hurricane behind Hurricane Katrina.

Amidst the chaos of recovery, more than 240 American Red Cross blood drives were cancelled, resulting in a shortfall of about 8,000 blood and platelet donations. Due to such severe storm damages, the likelihood of blood drives being rescheduled was highly unlikely. As the amount of victims of the “Superstorm” rapidly increased, the Red Cross urged communities across the nation to run immediate blood and platelet donations in areas unaffected by this storm.

Although Hamilton College and the areas surrounding Clinton were fortunate to escape the treacherous conditions of Hurricane Sandy, the college community was still affected by the storm’s effects.  With a significant percentage of the student body originating from parts of the United States hit by the storm, many students on campus were troubled by the damage that faced their hometowns and loved ones.  Thus, various groups of compassionate and dedicated students at Hamilton joined forces to assist victims of Hurricane Sandy.

In response to the Red Cross’s desperate call for donations, the Men and Women’s Rugby Teams hosted an Emergency Blood Drive on Wednesday, Nov. 14.  With the help of David Thompson, the director of the Blood Fitness and Dance Center, team members Hannah Wagner ’15, Clare O’Grady ’14, Izzy Janzen ’14, and Philip Shulman ’14 worked with undying determination to get the word out about the much-needed drive.  Captain Izzy Janzen stated, “We had over 120 students signed up to donate and had over 700 people invited to [the drive’s official] Facebook group to get the message around… We are very proud of the enthusiastic response from the student body.” David Thompson also expressed his gratitude for student involvement in the blood drive.  He sayid, “The response to this drive was especially strong, and the willingness to give was incredible. I’m very proud of this community, and the Rugby teams did an outstanding job.” 

In total, the drive received 79 donations, undoubtedly making it one of Hamilton College’s most successful drives.  Yet, students that were unable to participate in the drive still have an opportunity to assist victims of Hurricane Sandy.  Various students and faculty members were turned away because the Red Cross representatives at the blood drive were simply unable to handle the massive volume of participants.  Therefore, any individual who still wishes to donate blood is strongly encouraged to seek out other blood drives in surrounding areas.

Students other than those on the Rugby teams, however, were determined to provide relief to those affected by the hurricane.  Sandhya Rao ’15 lead a fundraiser in the Kirner-Johnson building with the support of Hamilton organizations such as COOP, the Philanthropy Committee and the Cultural Affairs Committee. 

When asked about her reasons for running the fundraiser, Rao explained that her initial reasons were personal.   “Since Hamilton was not badly affected by the Hurricane, I thought most of the east coast escaped unscathed. Since my home is close to the shore, my parents were left in a very different situation. It took them 13 days to finally get power and heat back to the house, school was canceled for my younger brother, and they had to wait in line for three hours to get gas. Their stories made me realize the extent of the damage the Hurricane caused, and I knew I wanted to help other people in the area who were hit even harder by this storm.”

Throughout the weeks after Hurricane Sandy that Rao held the fundraiser, approximately $500 were donated by Hamilton students and faculty, all of which will be given to the Union Beach Disaster Relief Fund, a fund created by the township of Union Beach to try and rebuild the lives of all the families hurt by the hurricane. According to Rao, in Union Beach, around 100 homes were destroyed, while 30 more were washed away completely, and the sole school in the area was flooded, preventing students from having classes.

In addition to these damages as a result of Sandy, a severe winter storm hit the town, and people who were consequentially homeless had to endure up to 55 mph winds and snow. The funds collected by the Union Beach Disaster Relief Fund will be allocated in order to help clean up the town, begin rebuilding and provide basic necessities for families in the region.

The enthusiasm and compassion demonstrated across the Hamilton campus in regards to assisting the victims of Hurricane Sandy is truly inspiring.  No doubt such widespread participation can be expected should any service Hamilton can provide be required once more.

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